Coronavirus: 11 per cent Pakistanis have developed protective immunity against COVID-19, says study

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August 21, 2020 4:50 PM

Almost 11 per cent Pakistanis have developed protective immunity against the novel coronavirus that has claimed 6,219 lives and infected 291,588 people across the country.

With only 12,000 active Covid-19 cases remaining in the city, the recovery rate has also spiked to 90.2 per cent against the national rate at 72.5 per cent.Seroprevalence studies are carried out with an objective to assess as to what percentage of population has developed protective immunity (antibodies) to the virus.

Almost 11 per cent Pakistanis have developed protective immunity against the novel coronavirus that has claimed 6,219 lives and infected 291,588 people across the country, a media report said on Friday. The figures were revealed in the “National Seroprevalence Study” conducted in 25 cities in July this year by the Health Services Academy in collaboration with multiple partners, including Aga Khan University, and with technical support from the World Health Organisation (WHO). It is part of the WHO Unity Study being conducted simultaneously in 25 other countries, the Ministry of National Health Services said.

Seroprevalence studies are carried out with an objective to assess as to what percentage of population has developed protective immunity (antibodies) to the virus, the Dawn newspaper reported. The study stated that nearly 11 per cent Pakistanis have developed protective immunity against the novel coronavirus, the report said. “The seropositivity was more in urban areas compared to rural areas; similarly those who had contact with COVID-19 positive persons were more likely to have antibodies in their blood,” the study stated.

It reveals that the population of urban areas and people up to middle age are more protected against the disease. However, the population in rural areas and senior citizens are at highest risk from a possible second wave of the deadly virus. The virus was more common in young adults and significantly less in children and older people. It was also found out in the study that the use of mask and frequent hand-washing in July was up to approximately 60 per cent and 70 per cent of the population, respectively. The study suggests that areas with lower immunity rates may be at higher risk for future outbreaks.

Microbiologist Professor Javed Usman said detection of antibodies in the 11 per cent population was much less than his expectations as it meant that Pakistan was still far away from the concept of herd immunity. “The concept of herd immunity arises if antibodies are developed in over 50 per cent of the population. Although 22 million people have been infected with the virus, it does not mean that all of them needed medical treatment as it is called ‘Sub-Clinical Infection’ in which patients may have minor symptoms or no symptoms,” he was quoted as saying in the report.

A health expert, who played a role in the study, said on condition of anonymity that the health ministry had shared preliminary findings and a number of findings would be shared within three to four weeks. “There were around 80 variables of the study as the primary target was to find the percentage of antibodies in the masses. Other targets were to identify which age group was vulnerable, identify the ratio of cases in rural and urban areas and small and big cities, people of which profession were more vulnerable, what kind of symptoms were in them and if people were following the precautionary measures and wearing masks,” he said.

He said that one of the findings was that initially people were strictly following the standard operating procedures (SOPs), but later they stopped doing that. The federal government has fast-tracked the process for provision of COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it is available, the report said. “An expert committee had been tasked under the auspices of National COVID-19 Vaccine Committee with working on finalising recommendations for provision of the vaccine and its deployment in the country. The committee’s recommendations shall be submitted to the prime minister this month, the Ministry of National Health Services said.

Six out of 10 vaccines currently being developed by leading global manufacturers are undergoing phase-3 trials. The committee has recommended engagement with Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation for support in procurement through co-financing. Also among the recommendations is enhanced collaboration with China including in clinical trials of the vaccine and efforts towards indigenous manufacturing of the vaccine,” the report quoted the ministry as saying.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s coronavirus cases reached 291,588 on Friday after 630 new cases were detected in the last 24 hours. Another 10 patients died in this period, taking the total death toll to 6,219 across the country, the Ministry of National Health Services said. It said that 273,579 people had fully recovered while 722 were still in critical conditions. According to the ministry data, the number of active patients was 11,790. The authorities have conducted 25,613 tests in the last 24 hours, taking the total number of tests performed so far to 2,389,265, it said.

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