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How Many Americans Have Had COVID-19?

CDC research provides new insights into Omicron’s winter surge, especially among children

April 27, 2022

More than half of all Americans have antibodies signaling they had a prior COVID-19 infection, according to a new report from the CDC.

On Tuesday, the CDC released data estimating the number of people who had COVID-19 infection-induced antibodies from September 2021 through February 2022. The CDC’s national commercial laboratory seroprevalence study draws distinctions between antibodies created by infection and those stemming from vaccines to offer a glimpse at Omicron’s toll in the U.S.

“Staying up to date with vaccination is recommended for all eligible persons, including those with previous SARS-CoV-2 infection,” the report notes.

Among the report’s key findings:

  • Children and adolescents:  By the end of February, about 75 percent of children and adolescents had evidence of previous infection with COVID-19, including about a third who had been newly positive for infection-related antibodies since December 2021.
  • Overall rate:  More than 57 percent of Americans had evidence of infection-induced antibodies in their system during February compared with just 33.5 during December.
  • People over 65:  The evidence of COVID-19 infection for those 65 and older increased from 19 percent in December to 33 percent in February. The demographic had the lowest increase in positivity.
  • Main takeaway:  “The greatest increases in seroprevalence during September 2021–February 2022, occurred in the age groups with the lowest vaccination coverage,” the authors note.

The findings are important as the U.S. monitors case counts for Omicron and its subvariants. It’s estimated that 68 percent of recent COVID-19 infections are from the BA.2 subvariant and another 29 percent are from the related BA.2.12.1 subvariant.

While case counts remain far below the levels of the winter surge, public health officials still stress the importance of COVID-19 vaccines to reduce the spread of the virus and to prevent hospitalizations.

“Vaccination remains the safest strategy for preventing complications from SARS-CoV-2 infection, including hospitalization among children and adults,” the study authors said.

HAP joins health care organizations across the nation encouraging the general public to stay up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines. This includes second booster doses for some eligible Americans.

Learn more about the availability of COVID-19 vaccines in your community.