BMJ Open 13 (11) e064240 [2023-11-06; online 2023-11-06]
Systematic review of SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence studies undertaken in the WHO European Region to measure pre-existing and cumulative seropositivity prior to the roll out of vaccination programmes. A systematic review of the literature. We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE and the preprint servers MedRxiv and BioRxiv in the WHO 'COVID-19 Global literature on coronavirus disease' database using a predefined search strategy. Articles were supplemented with unpublished WHO-supported Unity-aligned seroprevalence studies and other studies reported directly to WHO Regional Office for Europe and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Studies published before the widespread implementation of COVID-19 vaccination programmes in January 2021 among the general population and blood donors, at national and regional levels. At least two independent researchers extracted the eligible studies; a third researcher resolved any disagreements. Study risk of bias was assessed using a quality scoring system based on sample size, sampling and testing methodologies. In total, 111 studies from 26 countries published or conducted between 1 January 2020 and 31 December 2020 across the WHO European Region were included. A significant heterogeneity in implementation was noted across the studies, with a paucity of studies from the east of the Region. Sixty-four (58%) studies were assessed to be of medium to high risk of bias. Overall, SARS-CoV-2 seropositivity prior to widespread community circulation was very low. National seroprevalence estimates after circulation started ranged from 0% to 51.3% (median 2.2% (IQR 0.7-5.2%); n=124), while subnational estimates ranged from 0% to 52% (median 5.8% (IQR 2.3%-12%); n=101), with the highest estimates in areas following widespread local transmission. The low levels of SARS-CoV-2 antibody in most populations prior to the start of vaccine programmes underlines the critical importance of targeted vaccination of priority groups at risk of severe disease, while maintaining reduced levels of transmission to minimise population morbidity and mortality.
A collection of serology data created by WHO Unity Studies Global SARS-CoV2 Seroepidemiological Investigations. Includes both data published in studies and other data not used in publications.