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Taiwan professor welcomes COVID blood serum antibody survey

Chan Chang-chuan first proposed the survey in 2020

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Health expert Chan Chang-chuan proposed a COVID blood serum antibody survey two years ago. 

Health expert Chan Chang-chuan proposed a COVID blood serum antibody survey two years ago.  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Public health expert Chan Chang-chuan (詹長權) on Friday (June 17) welcomed a government decision to conduct a blood serum antibody survey, though he added he had suggested the practice two years ago as an efficient method of countering the spread of COVID-19.

The survey would help reduce the death rate for high-risk groups, in particular the young under 17 years of age and the elderly older than 65, and track down the presence of invisible transmission chains, said the professor at National Taiwan University’s (NTU) College of Public Health.

Chan first made the suggestion of a large-scale blood serum antibody survey after the pandemic began to affect Taiwan in 2020, but the authorities did not heed his proposal.

With new daily infections numbering tens of thousands and the total number of cases exceeding 3 million, the government announced Thursday (June 16) it would launch a survey. Tests on 36,000 archived samples from blood donation centers donated between January and June will reveal trends in the evolution of the pandemic by age and geographic area, according to the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC).

Chan posted his comments on his Facebook page under the title “The blood serum antibody survey that came late.” He underlined the importance of the research, describing it as a basic health policy instrument used in many countries.

Survey results could help understand how the virus had spread through a community and how to stop it, while also helping with understanding how group immunity could be achieved, Chan said.

The late decision to go ahead with the survey might meet with some problems, as the infections and the campaign of mass vaccinations were likely to have influenced the creation of antibodies.

Another problem was that blood donations only covered people between the ages of 17 and 65, leaving infants, children, many teenagers, elderly people, and residents of care homes out of the survey even though they belonged to high-risk groups for COVID, Chan said.

The expert suggested taking blood samples across the country, targeting different population groups and areas to obtain a more complete picture of the spread of the Omicron variant. He also recommended following the example of Changhua County, where the local health authorities started a serum antibody survey in June 2020, though they were unable to complete the study.

Thorough research would help identify problems with the fight against COVID and help predict the further evolution of the pandemic, Chan concluded.