Nationwide population-based surveys of Iranian COVID-19 Serological Surveillance (ICS) program: The surveys protocol.Med J Islam Repub Iran. 2021; 35:61.MJ
Background: Serological surveillance of COVID-19 through conducting repetitive population-based surveys can be useful in estimating and monitoring changes in the prevalence of infection across the country. This paper presents the protocol of nationwide population-based surveys of the Iranian COVID-19 Serological Surveillance (ICS) program. Methods: The target population of the surveys is all individuals ≥6 years in Iran. Stratified random sampling will be used to select participants from those registered in the primary health care electronic record systems in Iran. The strata are the 31 provinces of the country, in which sampling will be done through simple random sampling. The sample size is estimated 858 individuals for each province (except for Tehran province, which is 2574) at the first survey. It will be recalculated for the next surveys based on the findings of the first survey. The participants will be invited by the community health workers to the safe blood sampling centers at the district level. After obtaining written informed consent, 10 mL of venous blood will be taken from the participants. The blood samples will be transferred to selected reference laboratories in order to test IgG and IgM antibodies against COVID-19 using an Iranian SARS-CoV-2 ELISA Kit (Pishtaz Teb). A serologically positive test is defined as a positive IgG, IgM, or both. After adjusting for the measurement error of the laboratory test, nonresponse bias, and sampling design, the prevalence of COVID-19 will be estimated at the provincial and national levels. Also, the approximate incidence rate of infection will be calculated based on the data of both consecutive surveys. Conclusion: The implementation of these surveys will provide a comprehensive and clear picture of the magnitude of COVID-19 infection and its trend over time for health policymakers at the national and subnational levels.