Scientists explore Latvian society's immunity against Covid-19

Scientists are carrying out a major study to find out how many people in Latvia have had Covid-19 and got immunity against it, Latvian Television reported January 9.

Sampling for antibody tests should be completed in the coming weeks before mass vaccination starts. So scientists call on GPs and residents to get involved in the study.

Antibodies to SARS-COV-2 indicate that the person has had Covid-19. Many don't know that they are infected, because the disease can manifest itself without symptoms. Researchers therefore want to find out the true extent of the virus and how immune the Latvian population is.

“It's like a historical photograph. We are trying to record the percentage of Latvia's population who have had this disease at this point. And that would allow us to re-calculate the vaccination volume, how much we need to achieve crowd immunity. Also which groups are most affected,” said Uga Dumpis, head of the Infection Monitoring Service of Stradins Clinical University Hospital.

Seven thousand samples should be obtained by the end of January. Through GPs' practices, patients in all regions of Latvia are offered free antibody tests.

“The interest and responsiveness of patients is surprisingly great. People want to know if they've already had this infection or not.(..) We offer, and I would like to say that virtually everyone is happy to do it,” said general practitioner Ainis Dzalbs.

But not everywhere, doctors and residents are as responsive as in Dzalbs' practice. It is most difficult for researchers to get samples in Rīga and Kurzeme.

“There are a lot of cases where people are afraid to take part in the study because they are afraid to get infected in the clinic. They think it is better not to know. What I want to say, if you are asked by a GP or nurse, then you should do it because knowledge means protection. Then we understand whether we have this additional protection or not,” said Olga Valciņa, representative of scientific institute BIOR which analyzes the samples.

Researchers also encourage family doctors' practices to participate and support science. The resulting data will be useful for improving the vaccination strategy. There is still no evidence of permanent immunity after the infection.

Scientists' findings on what is happening in the Latvian population could be known in March.

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