Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) chief Dr Balram Bhargava on Tuesday said it will be wise to reopen primary schools before secondary schools as children can handle viral infections much better than adults.
"We know clearly that children can handle viral infections much better than adults. Antibody exposure is also similar in children as adults. Some Scandinavian countries didn't shut their primary schools in any COVID waves," Bhargava said.
"Once India starts considering, it'll be wise to open primary schools first before opening secondary schools. All the support staff whether it be school bus drivers, teachers & other staff in the school need to be vaccinated," he added.
While addressing a press conference, the ICMR chief also informed that the fourth round of the National Sero Survey has been conducted and the overall seroprevalence in the country is at 67.6 per cent.
"The fourth round of national serosurvey was conducted in 70 districts in June-July and included children between 6-17 years of age." "Overall seroprevalence is 67.6 per cent in the entire population. In people of 6-9 years age group, it was 57.2 per cent; in 10-17 years, it was 61.6 per cent; in 18-44 years, it was 66.7 per cent; in 45-60 years, it was 77.6 per cent," said Dr Balram Bhargava.
Asked whether there is any difference between seroprevalence between males and females or in rural and urban areas, Bhargava said, "There was no difference in seroprevalence in males and females and rural and urban areas. In unvaccinated, the seroprevalence was 62.3 per cent and with one dose of vaccine, it was 81 per cent. In those who received both doses, it was 89.8 per cent." Bhargava informed that the Health Ministry studied 7,252 healthcare workers and 10 per cent had not taken the vaccine, the overall seroprevalence in them was 85.2 per cent. "In conclusion, 2/3rd of general population, that is, above the age of 6 years had SARS-CoV-2 infection," said Dr Bhargava.
Further speaking on Fourth National Serosurvey for COVID-19, Bhargava said, "More importantly, a third of the population did not have antibodies, that is, 40 crore of the population of the country is still vulnerable." Implications of the fourth serosurvey clearly show that there is a ray of hope but there is no room for complacency, said Bhargava and added that "We must maintain COVID appropriate behaviour and community engagement. National level serosurvey is not a substitute of state/district level serosurvey."
(With ANI inputs)