Prevalence, incidence and longevity of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 among primary healthcare providers in Belgium: a prospective cohort study with 12 months of follow-up.
Adriaenssens N., Scholtes B., Bruyndonckx R., Van Ngoc P., Verbakel JYJ., De Sutter A., Heytens S., Van Den Bruel A., Desombere I., Van Damme P., Goossens H., Buret L., Duysburgh E., Coenen S.
OBJECTIVES: To estimate the prevalence, incidence and longevity of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 among primary healthcare providers (PHCPs). DESIGN: Prospective cohort study with 12 months of follow-up. SETTING: Primary care in Belgium. PARTICIPANTS: Any general practitioner (GP) working in primary care in Belgium and any other PHCP from the same GP practice who physically manages (examines, tests, treats) patients were eligible. A convenience sample of 3648 eligible PHCPs from 2001 GP practices registered for this study (3044 and 604 to start in December 2020 and January 2021, respectively). 3390 PHCPs (92,9%) participated in their first testing time point (2820 and 565, respectively) and 2557 PHCPs (70,1%) in the last testing time point (December 2021). INTERVENTIONS: Participants were asked to perform a rapid serological test targeting IgM and IgG against the receptor binding domain of SARS-CoV-2 and to complete an online questionnaire at each of maximum eight testing time points. PRIMARY AND SECONDARY OUTCOME MEASURES: The prevalence, incidence and longevity of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 both after natural infection and after vaccination. RESULTS: Among all participants, 67% were women and 77% GPs. Median age was 43 years. The seroprevalence in December 2020 (before vaccination availability) was 15.1% (95% CI 13.5% to 16.6%), increased to 84.2% (95% CI 82.9% to 85.5%) in March 2021 (after vaccination availability) and reached 93.9% (95% CI 92.9% to 94.9%) in December 2021 (during booster vaccination availability and fourth (delta variant dominant) COVID-19 wave). Among not (yet) vaccinated participants the first monthly incidence of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 was estimated to be 2.91% (95% CI 1.80% to 4.01%). The longevity of antibodies is higher in PHCPs with self-reported COVID-19 infection. CONCLUSIONS: This study confirms that occupational health measures provided sufficient protection when managing patients. High uptake of vaccination resulted in high seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in PHCPs in Belgium. Longevity of antibodies was supported by booster vaccination and virus circulation. TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: NCT04779424.