Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 Seroprevalence and Reported Coronavirus Disease 2019 Cases in US Children, August 2020-May 2021

Open Forum Infect Dis. 2022 Jan 30;9(3):ofac044. doi: 10.1093/ofid/ofac044. eCollection 2022 Mar.


Background: Case-based surveillance of pediatric coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases underestimates the prevalence of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections among children and adolescents. Our objectives were to estimate monthly SARS-CoV-2 antibody seroprevalence and calculate ratios of SARS-CoV-2 infections to reported COVID-19 cases among children and adolescents in 8 US states.

Methods: Using data from the Nationwide Commercial Laboratory Seroprevalence Survey, we estimated monthly SARS-CoV-2 antibody seroprevalence among children aged 0-17 years from August 2020 through May 2021. We calculated and compared cumulative incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection extrapolated from population-standardized seroprevalence of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, cumulative COVID-19 case reports since March 2020, and infection-to-case ratios among persons of all ages and children aged 0-17 years for each state.

Results: Of 41 583 residual serum specimens tested, children aged 0-4, 5-11, and 12-17 years accounted for 1619 (3.9%), 10 507 (25.3%), and 29 457 (70.8%), respectively. Median SARS-CoV-2 antibody seroprevalence among children increased from 8% (range, 6%-20%) in August 2020 to 37% (range, 26%-44%) in May 2021. Estimated ratios of SARS-CoV-2 infections to reported COVID-19 cases in May 2021 ranged by state from 4.7-8.9 among children and adolescents to 2.2-3.9 for all ages combined.

Conclusions: Through May 2021 in selected states, the majority of children with serum specimens included in serosurveys did not have evidence of prior SARS-CoV-2 infection. Case-based surveillance underestimated the number of children infected with SARS-CoV-2 more than among all ages. Continued monitoring of pediatric SARS-CoV-2 antibody seroprevalence should inform prevention and vaccination strategies.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; infection; pediatric; seroprevalence; surveillance.