Blood test data offers the first evidence that more than half of the US population, or 189 million people, have been infected at least once since the start of the pandemic – double the number reflected in the official case count . Officials cautioned, however, that the data, in a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, does not indicate that people are protected from the virus in the future, especially from increasingly transmissible variants.
“We continue to recommend that everyone be up to date on their vaccinations, get your primary series and your booster, if applicable,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said during a press briefing. .
Kristie Clarke, the CDC official who authored the report, said in February that “evidence of previous COVID-19 infections has increased dramatically across all age groups, likely reflecting the increase in cases we have noted as the omicron increased in this country”.
Clarke said the biggest increases were among those with the lowest vaccination levels, noting that older adults were more likely to be fully vaccinated.
The biggest increases were in children and teenagers up to the age of 17 – around 75% of them had been infected in February, based on blood samples which examine the antibodies developed in response to coronavirus infection but not in response to vaccination. This represents approximately 58 million children.
Blood test data suggests 189 million Americans had covid-19 at the end of February, well over double the 80 million cases reported by the Washington Post’s case tracker, which is based on state data. on confirmed infections. Clarke said that was because blood tests were picking up asymptomatic cases and others that were never confirmed by coronavirus tests.
With the surge of omicron, officials had expected more infections. “But I didn’t expect the increase to be that big,” Clarke added.
Separately, the CDC is about to release another study that estimates three infections for every reported case, she said.
This is a developing story. It will be updated.