Study conducted in Romania
- The study was conducted by MedLife Medical System, a leader in private medicine in Romania, and was meant to assess the degree of immunisation acquired naturally or following vaccination in Romania, at the urban level.
- According to MedLife doctors, the level of herd immunity at the urban level is over 60% of the population, i.e. between 6 and 7 million inhabitants, only in cities that represent 54% of the Romanian population.
- If the rural environment were taken into account, the number of those who either got the disease or were vaccinated could reach 10-12 million people.
- Less than 10% of those who got the disease but were not vaccinated show titres of neutralizing antibodies.
- Romania can become the most important nursery in Europe for investment and tourism. This is, however, conditioned by the rapid increase in vaccination rates.
Actively involved in research activities since the beginning of the pandemic, MedLife Medical System, as industry leader in Romania, conducted a new study, through its own research division, to assess the degree of immunization acquired naturally or following vaccination in Romania, at the urban level. Such research was conducted on a representative sample of 943 people, residents in cities with different characteristics in terms of vaccination rate and infection rate: Bucharest, Cluj, Constanța, Timișoara – Zone 1, and Giurgiu, Suceava and Piatra Neamț – Zone 2, respectively.
In order to determine the antibody titre against COVID-19, RBD IgG (protein fragment) serological tests on the spike protein were performed using Abbott analytical systems, which quantitatively measured the level of antibodies and SARS-CoV-2 Antibody (IgG) nucleocapsid qualitative tests confirming or refuting the presence of antibodies.
“We make public the results of a new research approach conducted entirely from our own resources and exclusively with Romanian doctors and specialists. The data show that the level of herd immunity only at urban level, in Romania, is over 60%, i.e. 6-7 million Romanians, which indicates a major progress of the immunization rate, given that in May last year we, MedLife, were announcing, for the first time, that the immunity of the Romanian population to COVID-19 was below 2%. Moreover, if we extrapolate the data and also take into account the rural environment, we are probably talking about 10-12 million Romanians who got the disease or were vaccinated. However, this is not the time to relax. Studies on the Delta strain show beyond any doubt that natural immunity, which is obtained after getting the disease, is not effective against the new Delta strain. Wave 4 is closer than originally thought, probably in a month at most Romania will end up having again thousands of cases a day because of this much more infectious strain.
There is only one solution: vaccination. If the high level of natural immunization had been accompanied by an equally high rate of immunity achieved through vaccination, Romania would probably have done very well at European level. The vaccination campaign proved to be excellently organized in our country, with a very good territorial coverage and availability of vaccine stocks, but an even more intense increase in communication is needed to inform the population about the importance of this phenomenon and to increase vaccination rates as soon as possible. If we prioritize vaccination in the next period, we have the chance to become the most important nursery in Europe for investment and tourism”, said Mihai Marcu, President and CEO of MedLife Group.
Three times more people in the big cities of Romania have been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus compared to official reports. In smaller cities, the numbers are rising alarmingly
The study conducted by MedLife specialists shows that three times more people in the big cities of Romania were infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, compared to official reports that reflect only the number of individuals who got the disease and took the PCR test to confirm the diagnosis. Thus, according to the serological tests performed during the approach carried out by MedLife, 34% of the population studied in the big cities has been exposed to COVID-19 infection since the onset of the pandemic onwards. Of these, more than half were most likely asymptomatic. Moreover, the same study shows that 50% of the population of small towns got the disease, up to nine times more than the numbers officially reported.
However, the situation remains worrying in Romania, given that people who got the disease and have not been vaccinated have a very good chance of being re-infected with the new strains of coronavirus now in circulation. Also, unlike Western European countries, the population aged over 60, the most exposed to severe forms of the disease, including hospitalization and even death, has chosen to be vaccinated to a much lesser extent.
Despite the rate of herd immunity, Romania is still far from the end of the pandemic
Although the data on the rate of herd immunization are optimistic, the MedLife research team warns that the fourth wave of the pandemic is inevitable and that its effects on the Romanian health system and the economy will be devastating if the vaccination rate does not increase rapidly in the next period.
This is explained by the fact that less than 10% of those who came in contact with the virus, but were not vaccinated, have a neutralizing antibody titre. However, MedLife doctors point out that the cumulative effect of vaccination and a history of COVID-19 is very strong, with 84% of those who got the disease and were vaccinated having a neutralizing antibody titre, including against the Delta strain.
“The high rate of herd immunity at the urban level could give us the impression that the situation is under control, but, unfortunately, we are still far from putting an end to this pandemic. We already know that in the case of asymptomatic patients or people with mild forms of the disease, the proportion of those who either did not develop antibodies at all as a result of contact with the virus, or developed a low antibody titre is higher compared to those who had severe forms of the disease. Therefore, there is a variability of the immune response to viral infection, much more so when it comes to the new strains, such as the Delta strain, which is gaining momentum in our country and will most likely become dominant in the next period. Therefore, at this moment, vaccination is the only way to protect ourselves against this virus, and if we do not increase the vaccination rate, most likely, in autumn, Romanian hospitals will begin to face the effects of this fourth wave of the pandemic“, said Dumitru Jardan, a biologist in the research division of the MedLife Group.
Proof of the fact that vaccination works is provided by the very capital of Romania, Bucharest, which seems to have one of the highest immunization rates in the country. The analysed data show that almost 70% of all Bucharest residents achieved immunity to COVID-19 naturally or by vaccination, and this is correlated with the high vaccination rate recorded in Bucharest.
MedLife, the only private medical company in Romania that has invested significant funds in research and managed to monitor the pandemic with a significant contribution to society
As the largest private medical company in Romania and the only one with national coverage, MedLife has been concerned with public health and has been actively involved in pandemic monitoring, conducting extensive studies with Romanian doctors, biologists and researchers. From the first months of the pandemic, the company focused its efforts and resources to monitor the epidemiological progress in the country, and has had a significant contribution in informing the population and the authorities in Romania.
In fact, the company is currently working on the first study in the region that evaluates the cellular immune response against COVID-19, and will soon return with essential information for the progress of the pandemic as regards the resistance of those who got the disease to a new reinfection.
The MedLife Medical System is the only operator in Romania truly concerned with public health since the beginning of the pandemic, which has conducted no less than 9 studies exclusively with its own funds and resources, involving Romanian doctors and researchers. Thus, the company provided the authorities with important information on the natural immunization of the population, at national level and in specific outbreaks, the dynamic evolution of antibodies to COVID-19, the origin of SARS-CoV-2 virus circulating in Romania, and the manner of transmission or presence of other strains.
MedLife’s investment in research actions amounts to more than two million euros since the beginning of the pandemic. The research programme is carried out exclusively from the company’s own funds.
The company continues to invest in research, and is currently carrying out the first study in the region on the cellular immune response against COVID-19, the results of which will be crucial in the evolution of the pandemic.
 Values >= 3950 AU/ml were equated with a probability of 95% with neutralization titres >= 1:250 (PRNT ID50). The results obtained on other analytical platforms are not intercomparable.