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The Union government on Wednesday advised all states and Union territories to conduct SARS CoV2 serological prevalence surveys in consultation with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to generate district-level data for formulating localized public health response measures.

Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan, in a letter to additional chief secretaries, principal secretaries, and secretaries, health, of all states, said that such studies may follow a standardised protocol.

“The findings of such studies can then be utilized quickly by the respective states and Union territories to guide objective, transparent, and evidence-based public health response to covid-19, said Bhushan, referring to the findings of the fourth round of National Serological Prevalence Survey conducted by ICMR.

The national ICMR survey, the findings of which was shared by the Union health ministry on Wednesday, showed that more than 400 million Indians continue to remain vulnerable to covid-19 despite more than 67.6% of the general population found to have been exposed to the virus and having developed SARS-CoV-2 antibodies.

“ICMR has conducted the recent National Serological survey in 70 districts of India. The national serosurvey by ICMR was designed to capture the extent of the spread of covid infection at the national level. Therefore, the national serosurvey results do not reflect the heterogeneity of seroprevalence between districts and even between states," said Bhushan in the letter.

The serological survey was conducted from June to July 2021 on more than 28,975 individuals, including adults and children aged between 6 and 17 years, apart from 7,252 healthcare workers in 70 districts where earlier three rounds of the survey were also conducted.

The seropositivity has only been increasing in the consecutive serological surveys done by the government. The first serosurvey conducted in May-June 2020 found 0.7% seroprevalence. The second such survey was conducted in August-September 2020 and found 7.1% seropositivity, while the third survey carried out in December 2020-January 2021 found 24.1% people to have SARS CoV2 antibodies.

Among the population covered under the fourth survey, 10% people were aged between 6-9 years, 20% were aged 10-17 years, with the rest being 18 years or older. More than half of the children surveyed 6-17 years were seropositive with the seroprevalence similar in rural and urban areas for all age groups, the survey showed.

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