Serosurveys cannot be extrapolated to estimate mortality rates of COVID-19 or undercounting of the number of coronavirus infections as they are not meant to cover granularity at the level of the state, NITI Aayog member (health) Dr VK Paul said on Tuesday, amid allegations by certain opposition leaders that the Centre had under-counted COVID cases.
Addressing a press conference over the COVID-19 situation in country, Mr Paul, when asked about the fourth round of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)'s nationwide serosurvey, said, "Serosurvey is carried out with the specific purpose of enunciating how many people have previous experience of COVID...It isn't meant to cover granularity at the level of state. This isn't the way data should be interpreted or convey misleading information."
"All serosurveys that have been done are for portraying the national picture of COVID-19. That only covers the overall picture. That's why an official picture of the serosurvey should be seen in the national context. Having said that, remember if the antibody is found in any person, it shows that the person has been exposed to COVID-19. It does not mean it was a serious disease. It doesn't indicate a life-threatening situation," he added.
"Also if the person has not got himself tested, it is more likely that the situation may have been asymptomatic or totally know to the individual. In most cases, above 80 per cent cases, there are no symptoms, you are totally unaware. This situation can not be equated with a situation where there is a significant chance of mortality. Serosurvey includes a huge number of people who are asymptomatic, extrapolating those is irrational and biased," he added.
Mr Paul said that vaccination could also be a reason behind antibodies being found in any individual.
"At least some part of it has come from the vaccine, and the vaccine is protective. Making a mathematical calculation and drawing a picture of your own is not scientifically valid. This is not a way of data interpretation. Making a mathematical calculation and drawing a picture of your own is not scientifically valid. This is not a way of data interpretation," said Mr Paul.
Recently, the ICMR announced the results of the fourth nationwide serosurvey which revealed that two-thirds of India's population has developed SARS-CoV-2 antibodies and 40 crore people are still vulnerable to the novel coronavirus.
The fourth edition of the national serosurvey was conducted in 70 districts in June-July and included children of 6-17 years age. The fourth serosurvey found the overall seroprevalence of India to be 67.6 per cent.
Recently, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi had slammed the Centre for under-counting COVID cases.
"ICMR study says real extent of COVID spread is FAR MORE than reported numbers. In states like Bihar, UP, MP, majority of COVID cases weren't counted. Govt failed in preventing 2nd wave, then deserted Indians in need. Forget providing treatment, it didn't even care to COUNT properly (sic)," Mr Owaisi had tweeted on July 31.
Meanwhile, Mr Paul further said that the Delta variant of the COVID virus is a dominant variant and the second wave is still prevalent in the country.
Lav Agarwal, Secretary, Union Health Ministry, at the press conference said that Kerala is now the only state with more than one lakh active cases. This is followed by Maharashtra with 78,000 and Karnataka with 24,000 active cases.
He added that the national weekly positivity rate had dropped below 2 per cent for the first time in three months. However, Mr Agarwal added: "There are 44 districts where the case positivity rate is over 10 per cent. These districts are in Kerala, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland, among others."