Over 51 per cent of Mumbai's general paediatric population - those below 18 - have antibodies for COVID-19, a sero survey conducted in the city between April 1 and June 15 has revealed.
2,176 blood samples collected from path labs across Mumbai showed the highest sero prevalence (53.43 per cent) for children between the ages of 10 and 14. Children aged 15-18 showed 51.39 per cent sero prevalence and those between one and four showed 51.04 per cent sero prevalence.
The overall sero prevalence rate for Mumbai's children (one to 18 age group) is 51.18 per cent.
"There is a notable increase in the sero positivity in the paediatric population to SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) in this study as compared to the third sero survey conducted in March 2021," Mumbai's civic body, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), said.
The March sero survey showed a 39.4 per cent sero positivity for the below-18 age group.
"... indicates that a significant proportion of children accessing healthcare services were exposed to the virus during the second wave of COVID-19," the BMC said.
Last month a survey in Karnataka indicated that 1.4 lakh children were infected with COVID-19 between end-March and early-May. Around 40,000 of them were below 10 years old.
Also last month authorities in Maharashtra's Aurangabad said over 8,000 children had been infected in May, accounting for around 10 per cent of all cases from the district in May.
The results of the Mumbai and Karnataka surveys come amid continuing concerns the third Covid wave - which AIIMS chief Dr Randeep Guleria said could hit in six-eight weeks - will target children.
These fears have been highlighted by the SARS-CoV2 virus mutating into variants like the 'delta' and 'delta plus', which are reportedly more aggressive and resistant to some forms of drug therapy.
However, the government has said there is, at this stage, no evidence to suggest children will be severely or more affected; Dr Guleria told news agency PTI: "Data from the first and the second wave shows children are usually protected... even if they get it, they have mild infection."
The Indian Academy of Pediatrics also released a statement, in which it too said: "... there is no evidence indicating that most children with the COVID-19 infection will have severe disease in the third wave" and added "... almost 90 per cent of infections in children are mild/asymptomatic".
The government has, however, also said July's national sero survey will be divided be equally between adults and children; blood samples from 14,000 children over the age of six will be tested.
Concerns over children being affected has also focused talk on vaccinating them. The government has yet to allow kids to be vaccinated in India; it has cited lack of WHO policy on this subject.
None of the vaccines cleared by the national drug regulator - Covishield, Covaxin or Sputnik V (which has been cleared but not yet rolled out in large numbers) - have been approved for children.
However, trials to test vaccine efficacy and safety have begun.
Bharat Biotech's Covaxin is conducting a study on 525 children, and sources in vaccine makers Serum Institute have told NDTV they plan to start similar trials for Covovax next month.