Governor announces launch of Pediatric Coronavirus Serology Study

Ralph Northam

~ Press release issued by the Governor’s office on Aug.13

RICHMOND – Governor Ralph Northam today announced that the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) will conduct a pediatric coronavirus disease serology study in Northern Virginia.

Interim results from Virginia’s ongoing adult serology study show an estimated 2.4 percent of adults statewide have antibodies to COVID-19. The new pediatric study, completed in collaboration with Inova Health System, will measure the proportion of children and teens with antibodies to COVID-19.  

“The Commonwealth’s low exposure rate among adults is a testament to Virginians’ sacrifice and dedication in battling this virus,” said Governor Northam. “But as a pediatrician, I know children are often impacted by disease in a different way than adults. These studies provide key insight into how COVID-19 spreads among different ages and demographics groups. With this information, we are one step closer to beating this virus.” 

Northern Virginia was selected for this project due to the number of confirmed COVID-19 pediatric cases reported in the region. Northern Virginia’s population is also diverse in terms of ethnicity, socioeconomic status and race, which provides an important comparison to the rest of the Commonwealth. 

Inova Children’s Hospital will recruit up to 1,000 participants aged 0 – 19-years-old who live in Northern Virginia and seek care at participating clinical sites. Participants’ blood samples will be tested for COVID-19 antibodies, which indicate that a person had a COVID-19 infection in the past.

VDH will use the information collected from this project to estimate the total number of children and teenagers that have been infected with the COVID-19 virus in Northern Virginia and statewide, including those who may have had mild or asymptomatic infections.

VDH will also analyze children’s risk factors for COVID-19 infection, including age, underlying health conditions, sociodemographic characteristics, history of COVID-19 infection within households and childcare exposures.

Preliminary results are expected by mid-September.  

Adult Study: Interim Results 

In early June, the Commonwealth launched an adult COVID-19 serology study in partnership with the University of Virginia, Inova Health System, Virginia Commonwealth University, Sentara Healthcare and Carilion Clinic.

To date, that project has enrolled 4,652 adults (93 percent) of the 5,000 participant goal and is ongoing.  

The interim analysis, based on 3,113 participants, estimates that 2.4 percent of adults statewide have antibodies to COVID-19.

By region, the estimated COVID-19 antibody prevalence is:

• Northern, 4.2%;

• Central, 3.0%;

• Eastern, 1.5%;

• Southwest, 1.0%;

• and Northwestern, 0.9%.  

According to the study, COVID-19 antibodies are 13.1 times higher among Hispanic adults (14.4 percent) than non-Hispanic adults (1.1 percent). Adults under 50 years-old have the highest seroprevalence, while adults ages 60-69 and 70-79 have a 1.0 percent and 1.4 percent seroprevalence, respectively.  

Adults who reported a health condition that put them at risk for severe complications of COVID-19 infection had a lower prevalence of antibodies to COVID-19 than those without a chronic health condition (1.5 percent compared to 3.0 percent).

A full report is expected at the conclusion of the study next month, September 2020. 

“It’s important to recognize that more than 95 percent of Virginians have not yet been exposed to the COVID-19 virus and remain at risk of infection,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA“Individually and collectively, all people in Virginia should continue to take preventive measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth.”


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