- The study was requested by SENAMA, the Chilean National Service for Senior Citizens, with the objective of knowing how COVID-19 has impacted the Long Term Care Centers for Senior Citizens (ELEAM) located in the Metropolitan Region, and in the regions of Valparaíso and O´Higgins, with the objective to improve preventive and response mechanisms for future outbreaks. The study included the voluntary participation of 2,099 residents from 70 ELEAM homes.
Thanks to the combined work between the Chilean National Service for Senior Citizens (SENAMA); the Center for Epidemiology and Health Policies (CEPS) of the Clínica Alemana Faculty of Medicine at Universidad del Desarrollo (UDD); the Ministry of Science, Technology, Knowledge and Innovation; Fundación Chile, and Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez (UAI) – through Data Observatory (DO) – and including a contribution from MetLife Foundation, the “Study of seroprevalence against SARS-CoV-2 infection in times of the pandemic at Long Term Care Centers (ELEAM) for Senior Citizens in three regions of Chile” was carried out to progress in how future outbreaks should be prevented and addressed inside of these homes, where the oldest and most vulnerable people of the population reside.
Seroprevalence studies make it possible to calculate how many people have been infected by the virus that causes Covid-19 and, from this perspective, they are an important contribution to studying how the disease is spread. According to the Minister of Science, Technology, Knowledge and Innovation, Andrés Couve, this study “constitutes a great example of potentiality for collaborations between academia, and the public and private sectors, which, in this case, aimed at gathering information, in record times, from the ELEAM centers located in the three largest regions of the country. Additionally, it facilitates the provision of data for the scientific community that works to generate new knowledge and applications that can protect one of the most vulnerable groups from being infected by Coronavirus.”
In this sense, the study included 2,099 residents from 70 ELEAM centers in the Valparaíso, O´Higgins and Metropolitan regions, who volunteered to participate and represent 68.8% of the total population of senior citizens living in these centers. The study was developed between the months of September and November, 2020.
Results show that 14.6% of the ELEAM residents were infected by SARS-CoV-2 and seroprevalence was highest in the MR (17%), followed by O´Higgins (12.2%) and, finally Valparaíso (10.9%), while there is an association between the frequency of infection in surrounding neighborhoods and seroprevalence within the centers. Furthermore, 29.4% of the infected residents had not been diagnosed with a PCR test.
The national director of SENAMA, Octavio Vergara, after highlighting the combined efforts of behalf of the institutions involved, specified that it is still necessary to extend studies to understand the COVID-19 disease´s behavior in groups of older people, specifically those who are institutionalized, in order to keep improving strategies for the disease´s prevention and control, as well as the plans for responding to future outbreaks”.
MD Pablo Vial, director of the Institute for Science and Innovation in Medicine (ICIM) at UDD, mentioned the importance of generating more instances for developing collaborative and interdisciplinary studies. On the other hand, Paola Rubilar, researcher in charge of the project at CEPS, UDD, emphasized on how the frequency of infection inside the ELEAM centers was greater than the frequency among the general population. Therefore, this confirms that there is a higher risk of contagion in these groups, and a need to strengthen preventive measures and sustained monitoring by that also including the vaccinated population”.”
In the short term, the collected data will be available, and open, through the Data Observatory Foundation (DO). Carlos Jerez, executive director of DO and dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Sciences at UAI, said that “this type of initiatives using public data makes it possible to deliver anonymized data, that has previously been analyzed and processed, for uses in research, innovation, and the development of public health policies aimed at every segment of the population”.
“This initiative demonstrates the importance of collaborative work, and public and private efforts, to be able to attend and respond to such a critical issue as the pandemic, since it gathers information that is relevant for research. At Fundación Chile, we are promoting new initiatives we have denominated “SER”, due to their high social impact, large scale, and agility, and we are proud of this investigation”, mentioned Marcos Kulka, general manager of Fundación Chile.