A countrywide sero survey conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in June and July this year has found that a whopping two-third of India’s population has already been infected by COVID-19 and developed antibodies against the virus.
There, however, are 40 crore people who are still at the risk of contracting the disease.
“Two-thirds of the general population that is above the age of six years had SARS-CoV-2 infection. More importantly, a third of the population did not have any antibodies…40 crore population of this country is still vulnerable,” ICMR director general Dr Balram Bhargava said in a press conference.
A report in the Indian Express said of the 28,975 people, whose samples were tested by ICMR after the second wave had subsided, 67.6 per cent were found with antibodies against SARS-CoV2.
While it was the fourth such survey by the ICMR since the outbreak of the pandemic, it was the first time the study covered the age group of six to 17 years and found antibodies in nearly half of them.
The serosurvey indicates a spike in the prevalence of the infection among the Indian population as opposed to findings derived from previous surveys. While only 0.7 per cent people were found with antibodies in the first survey carried out in May and June, 2020, a little less than 25 per cent had it when the third sero survey was conducted between December, 2020 and January, 2021.
The finding of the survey that a majority of the population has already been infected and developed antibodies against the virus, both in rural and urban areas, indicates that there may not be a repeat of the severity of the second wave of the pandemic.
The IE report says considering that more than 32 crore people have already received their first vaccine jab and the fact that there could be an overlap of infected and vaccinated people (both developing antibodies in the process), there is a possibility that over 70 per cent of the population over the age of six may have developed immunity against the virus.
However, scientists haven’t ruled out small surges in districts or states besides the 40 crore people who are still vulnerable to the disease.
“The implications of this large serosurvey clearly show that there is a ray of hope. But there is no room for complacency. We must maintain COVID-appropriate behaviour,” Bhargava added.