HSE issues reminder letters for the Study to investigate COVID-19 Infection in People Living in Ireland (SCOPI)

HSE Media Release: 02 July 2020

In the two weeks since the study launched, the HSE has had a positive response to the initial invitation, with over 2,000 of those invited already responding and more than 1,600 people participating. 

Dr Lorraine Doherty, HSE National Clinical Director for Health Protection said:

“This seroprevalence study is really important to help us understand the true level of infection in the population. To date, we have had a good take up of our invitation, and we would like to thank all those who have already taken part. They are making a significant contribution to our knowledge of this virus.”

Those who have been invited have until next Wednesday (July 8) to agree to participate in this research. Participants in the study are asked to complete a short questionnaire with HSE staff via telephone and to provide a blood sample to test for antibodies. The sample is taken by a phlebotomist in a local centre arranged by the HSE.

A random sample of people has been selected to participate using the HSE Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS) database in two counties: Dublin and Sligo. These areas of the country had higher and lower known levels of infection respectively. The sample will be representative of the wider population.

Serological tests measure the antibody response in an individual. Antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) are produced over several weeks after infection with the virus. The presence of antibodies indicates that a person was infected with the COVID-19 virus, irrespective of whether the individual had severe or mild disease, or even infection without any symptoms.

Dr Cillian de Gascun, Director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory, added:

“As the country begins to reopen, we must remember that COVID-19 has not gone away. We are constantly learning new things about this virus and all of this information is helping us in our response. This study could help us better understand how long antibodies last and what protection they may provide against new infection of COVID-19. It can also help us estimate the level or prevalence of infection of COVID-19 in the population across different age groups and this can inform how we manage the virus into the future. By participating in the study, people are playing a really important part in the national effort against COVID-19.”

Participants are being provided with their individual results and those who are found to have antibodies for COVID-19 will be asked to take part in a follow-up study if they would like to. This will involve three further blood tests and questions about COVID-19 symptoms over a 12-month period. This will help our understanding of how long antibodies last, and if they have a role in preventing repeat infections.

Initial results are expected in late August. To ensure that we include people of all ages, males and females, who broadly represent the wider population, the statistical technique of selecting a random sample of the population has been chosen. Therefore, the study is not open to volunteers from the general public and the HSE encourages those who receive a letter to consider participating. This is an important study and those who participate are contributing to essential research that is of benefit to society and helping with the national pandemic response.

ENDS

Last updated on: 02 / 07 / 2020