SARS-CoV-2 seroepidemiology in Mongolia, 2020-2021: a longitudinal national study.

Publication date: Apr 10, 2023

The COVID-19 pandemic has global impacts but is relatively understudied in developing countries. Mongolia, a lower-middle-income country, instituted strict control measures in early 2020 and avoided widespread transmission until vaccines became available in February, 2021. Mongolia achieved its 60% vaccination coverage goal by July 2021. We investigated the distribution and determinants of SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence in Mongolia over 2020 and 2021. We performed a longitudinal seroepidemiologic study aligned with WHO’s Unity Studies protocols. We collected data from a panel of 5000 individuals in four rounds between October 2020 and December 2021. We selected participants through local health centres across Mongolia by age-stratified multi-stage cluster sampling. We tested serum for the presence of total antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 receptor-binding domain, and levels of anti-SARS-CoV-2 spike IgG and neutralising antibodies. We linked participant data with national mortality, COVID-19 case, and vaccination registries. We estimated population seroprevalence and vaccine uptake, as well as unvaccinated population prior-infection prevalence. At the final round in late 2021, 82% (n = 4088) of participants completed follow-up. Estimated seroprevalence increased from 1. 5% (95% CI: 1. 2-2. 0), to 82. 3% (95% CI: 79. 5-84. 8) between late-2020 and late-2021. At the final round an estimated 62. 4% (95% CI: 60. 2-64. 5) of the population were vaccinated, and of the unvaccinated population 64. 5% (95% CI: 59. 7-69. 0) had been infected. Cumulative case ascertainment in the unvaccinated was 22. 8% (95% CI: 19. 1%-26. 9%) and the overall infection-fatality ratio was 0. 100% (95% CI: 0. 088-0. 124). Health workers had higher odds for being COVID-19 confirmed cases at all rounds. Males (1. 72 (95% CI: 1. 33-2. 22)) and adults aged 20 and above (12. 70 (95% CI: 8. 14-20. 26)) had higher odds for seroconverting by mid-2021. Among the seropositive, 87. 1% (95% CI: 82. 3%-90. 8%) had SARS-CoV-2 neutralising antibodies by late 2021. Our study enabled tracking of SARS-CoV-2 serological markers in the Mongolian population over one year. We found low SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence in 2020 and early 2021, with seropositivity increasing over a 3-month interval in 2021 due to vaccine roll out and rapid infection of most of the unvaccinated population. Despite high seroprevalence in Mongolia amongst both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals by end-2021, the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron immune escape variant caused a substantial epidemic. World Health Organization, WHO UNITY Studies initiative, with funding by the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund and the German Federal Ministry of Health (BMG) COVID-19 Research and development. The Ministry of Health, Mongolia partially funded this study.

Concepts Keywords
July COVID-19
Mongolia Epidemiology
Pandemic Immunity
Vaccination Mongolia
Seroepidemiologic studies


Type Source Name
disease MESH COVID-19 pandemic
disease IDO country
disease VO vaccination coverage
disease VO vaccination
disease VO population
disease VO vaccine
disease VO unvaccinated
disease IDO infection prevalence
disease VO vaccinated
disease MESH infection
disease VO organization

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