A unique study into collective immunity to COVID-19 is starting in the Czech Republic

The Ministry of Health is launching a study intended to determine the level of collective immunity to COVID-19 disease in the Czech population. About 27,000 people in various, carefully selected population groups in four localities will be tested. Sample collection will begin on 23 April.

Testing within this study is designated only for healthy people, i.e. people with no symptoms of upper respiratory disease and who have not previously tested positive for COVID-19. Adults and children from the age of 8 in Prague and Brno will be tested in particular. Overall, about 27,000 people in 4 geographical areas with various COVID-19 disease caseloads will be tested, namely in Prague, Brno and its surroundings, Olomouc and its surroundings, and Litoměřice. The study will also focus on a special group of chronically ill patients. A separate study will be conducted in Litovel and Uničov, where a more detailed evaluation of the quantitative analysis for the presence of coronavirus antibodies will be carried out.
“We are launching a unique study into collective immunity to coronavirus. We want to determine what part of the population has come into contact with the infection and how various age groups are faring in terms of immunity. This will help us better understand the situation and create predictions for future developments,” said Minister of Health Adam Vojtěch.
Intense preparatory work began in the selected localities on Wednesday morning. In most places, testing will begin on Thursday, 23 April, and in the Olomouc region on Friday, 24 April. Testing should be conducted over 7 to 8 days, and for one or two weeks longer in the Olomouc region because of the collection of capillary blood. Rapid tests will be used to determine the presence of coronavirus antibodies in the blood. In the event of a positive test result, the tested person will be asked for permission to conduct a swab of their upper respiratory passages to determine the presence of the virus, and measures will be recommended to prevent the spread of potential infection until the result of the test is known (they will receive an information leaflet with further instructions). The result of this test (PCR) will be reported by the laboratory that performs the evaluation, or directly by the regional hygienic station.  If the result of the swab from the upper respiratory passages is negative, this means that the given person had most likely encountered the coronavirus at an earlier date but is no longer infectious and does not need to observe special measures.
“The first results of the study will be available in early May. They will significantly contribute towards verifying the current epidemiological situation in the Czech Republic, and will also contribute towards responsible decisions about further steps to reduce the impacts of this disease,” added Director of the Institute of Health Information and Statistics  Ladislav Dušek.
Testing will be divided into groups by age. Special attention will be devoted to protecting the elderly. Special times will be reserved in the study tents – the same as those reserved for shopping – for older people included in the over-60 group for the purposes of the study. In Prague, there will be a special study tent every morning at Kateřinská zahrada, while groups of children will be tested in the afternoon.
“The aim of the study is not to determine the number of infected people but to generate hard data about how many people in the population have had COVID-19 with mild or no symptoms,” said Dean of the 1st Medical Faculty of Charles University Aleksi Šedo, who then explained how the testing will actually be conducted. “The people being tested will be divided into 4 groups by age, and samples of capillary blood from their fingers will be taken, like when stipulating the glycaemic index. The rapid test will stipulate the level of SARS-CoV-2 virus antibodies. The person will learn the result on the spot within 30 minutes from commencing the test. If it is positive, meaning the tested person has a higher concentration of antibodies, they will also undergo a swab test for biological material from the respiratory passage membranes to determine the presence of the virus using a PCR test, and will be instructed on how to proceed by a physician,” Dean Šedo added, noting that about 70 medics from the Dobro1lf student initiative, which has been active at the 1st Medical Faculty of Charles University since mid-March, will also  be helping out. At present, over 500 students involved in this initiative are helping at more than 50 healthcare facilities across the Czech Republic.
Any adult (also children from the age of 8 in Prague and Brno) that meets the entry criteria and shows no signs of disease can participate in the study. Testing is reserved for people who live in the given area. Furthermore, the study will include people selected from so-called representative groups of the Czech Statistical Office and IKEM Research Groups in cooperation with the Sociological Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences. The tested people must present their national ID card or health insurance card.
The contracting authority for the study is the Ministry of Health and the implementer is the Institute of Health Information and Statistics, respectively a branch of it – the National Screening Centre. A large number of experts from medical faculties, the Czech Academy of Sciences, the Czech Statistical Office, hygiene stations and law enforcement participated in preparing the study. The important institutions for its actual implementation are the healthcare facilities which will guarantee the actual conducting of the study in the individual tents, and the medical faculties that will coordinate the medics and other workers directly on site. The Czech Army will also play a key role by helping to create the facilities and by taking the samples from respiratory passages.
We have noted similar studies to evaluate the presence of new coronavirus antibodies in a number of other countries. One example is Germany, which is planning an extensive study involving tens of thousands of participants from a cohort from the areas most affected by COVID-19 contagion, as well as representative samples across Germany. Large studies are also being conducted in Scandinavian countries.

Detailed information about the study is available on the website https://covid-imunita.uzis.cz/. (only in the Czech language)

If you are interested in testing but need some clarification, you can call the toll-free number 1212, option 2 (medical information).

If you meet the criteria, you can come to a testing centre without registration.

Location of study testing centres:

Prague – Náměstí Míru
10:00 am – 8:00 pm only for people aged 18 to 59

Prague – Zítkovy sady
10:00 am – 8:00 pm only for people aged 18 to 59

Prague – Kateřinská zahrada
10:00 am – 3:00 pm only for people aged over 60
3:00 pm – 8:00 pm only for children and minors

Brno – Moravské náměstí
8:00 am – 6:00 pm
8:00 am – 10:00 am people aged over 60 have priority

Brno – Bohunice, parking lot in front of the Masaryk University Campus
8:00 am – 6:00 pm
8:00 am – 10:00 am, people aged over 60 have priority

Olomouc – Hypermarket Globus
8:00 am – 6:00 pm
8:00 am – 10:00 am, people aged over 60 have priority

Litovel – in front of the Billa supermarket
8:00 am – 6:00 pm
8:00 am – 10:00 am, people aged over 60 have priority

Uničov – Náměstí Osvobození
8:00 am – 6:00 pm
8:00 am – 10:00 am, people aged over 60 have priority

Litoměřice – location to be specified
8:00 am – 6:00 pm
8:00 am – 10:00 am, people aged over 60 have priority

IKEM – cohort of the chronically ill