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.