After more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, a third of Canada’s population is likely infected with the virus, according to research and experts.
Seroprevalence analyzes of blood samples across the country show that the rapid spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant has doubled the natural rate of infection.
By the end of February, infection-acquired seropositivity nationwide averaged 23.7 percent – a double jump from January’s rate – according to the latest report released earlier this month by Canadian Blood Services and Canada’s COVID-19 Immunity Task Force was released.
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The increase in infections was seen in all provinces, with Alberta, Manitoba and British Columbia showing the highest seroprevalence rates in February. The report does not include Quebec.
Young Canadians in the 17-24 age group had the highest natural infection rates at 36.3 percent compared to other age groups.
“I would think that after two years it’s very likely that a third of the population has had COVID infection,” said Dr. Catherine Hankins, co-chair of the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force.
The omicron wave that hit Canada in November 2021 evaded immunity, with reinfections and breakthrough cases, Hankins said.
“Omicron had the ability to evade the antibodies that we had built up either from previous infection or vaccination,” she said.
According to Hankins, the hardest-hit provinces are in the east, including Ontario and Quebec.
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In the west, the British Columbia Center for Disease Control, in partnership with LifeLabs, has been tracking SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in blood samples since the pandemic began.
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Their analysis also shows the drastic impact that Omicron had on the population.
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As of March 2022, their latest sero survey — which has not yet been released — shows more than 40 percent of the population had infection-induced antibodies, Dr. Danuta Skowronski, senior researcher and epidemiologist at BCCDC. In contrast, as of fall 2021, only 10 percent of the province had been infected, she said.
The biggest change has been in children, with about two-thirds under the age of 10 having been infected with the virus, Skowronski said. About half of BC’s young adult population is now infected.
“We’ve said goodbye to a population with near-total susceptibility to the virus, when now more than 90 percent of us have received some form of primer, either through vaccination or infection,” she said.
“We are no longer a completely naïve populace.”
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Being prepared doesn’t mean the body is immune to the virus, but at least is familiar with it so our immune systems are on alert and ready to fight the virus, which should reduce the risk of serious consequences, Skowronski explained.
A COVID-19 infection that has already gone through does not protect against reinfection, experts say.
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However, both vaccination and infection can help build what is known as “hybrid immunity” or an “immunity wall,” Hankins said.
“If you’ve already had the infection, it’s really worth getting vaccinated,” she said.
However, given the changing nature of COVID-19 with new variants, there is always a risk of waning immunity and infection, Hankins said.
“We have a good level of immunity now and if we are wise and follow precautions we can get out there and have a full summer.”
As of Tuesday, more than 3.7 million COVID-19 infections have been confirmed across Canada since the pandemic began.
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https://globalnews.ca/news/8788962/covid-infection-canada-population-antibody-study/ Nearly a third of Canada’s population has had COVID-19, antibody data shows – National