Around 182 private laboratories testing for coronavirus in the country have recorded a 16-17 percent test positivity rate, internal assessments by the government have found.
This is nearly three times the 5-6 percent test positivity rate recorded by 430 government laboratories, according to an Economic Times report.
Test positivity rate is the proportion of administered tests that conclude the subject has the disease being tested for.
The assessment found three major considerations for the gap in positivity rate between private and government testing centres – location, level of symptoms and testing approach, according to the ET report.
Most private labs are located in cities and urban areas, accounting for 30 percent of India’s testing facilities – less than a third of the country’s total capability. While widespread domestic network means government facilities are catering to the semi-urban and rural masses.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
As a disease brought in from abroad by the affluent class in metros, the cases are concentrated within the demography – which means that private labs, which cater to this clientele recorded a higher positive rate, the report noted.
Government labs are also testing a “diverse range of samples” given that they have a wider area to work with.
Testing approach & level of symptoms
Another factor is that since testing at private labs is for a fee, many come in voluntarily and only if they suspect having contracted the virus – which is when the symptoms are noticeable. While the government centres are testing those with mild symptoms and asymptomatic individuals as well, it added.
Many states have also undertaken door-to-door testing in troubled areas, while private labs are restricted to conduct tests within a limited area.
“Despite the cost differential and a non-aggressive testing strategy, the private lab network indicates high positivity of COVID-19 cases. It is an urban disease that came from foreign shores and there is a clear propensity of highly mobile people contracting it. So, you have private labs actually reporting a far bigger number of positive cases than the more extensive government network,” a senior official told the paper.
Moneycontrol could not independently verify the report.Follow our full COVID-19 coverage here