Feasibility and Acceptability of SARS-CoV-2 Testing and Surveillance in Primary School Children in England

28 Pages Posted: 14 Apr 2021

See all articles by Felicity Aiano

Felicity Aiano

Government of the United Kingdom - Public Health England Colindale

Samuel Jones

Government of the United Kingdom - Public Health England Colindale

Zahin Amin-Chowdhury

Public Health England - Immunisation and Countermeasures Division

Jessica Flood

Public Health England - Immunisation and Countermeasures Division

Ifeanyichukwu Okike

Government of the United Kingdom - Public Health England Colindale

Andrew J. Brent

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Bernadette Brent

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Joanne Beckmann

East London NHS Foundation Trust

Joanna Garstang

Government of the United Kingdom - Public Health England Colindale

Shazaad Ahmad

University of Manchester - Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust

Frances Baawuah

Government of the United Kingdom - Public Health England Colindale

Mary E. Ramsay

Public Health England - Immunisation, Hepatitis, and Blood Safety Department

Shamez Ladhani

Public Health England - Immunisation and Countermeasures Division; University of London, St. George's, Paediatric Infectious Diseases Research Group

Date Written: March 12, 2021

Abstract

Background: The reopening of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic has raised concerns about widespread infection and transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in educational settings. In June 2020, Public Health England (PHE) initiated prospective national surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 in primary schools across England (sKIDs). We used this opportunity to assess the feasibility and agreeability of large-scale surveillance and testing for SARS-CoV-2 infections in school among staff, parents and students.

Methods: Staff and students in 131 primary schools were asked to complete a questionnaire at recruitment and provide weekly nasal swabs for SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR testing (n=86) or swabs with blood samples for antibody testing (n=45) at the beginning and end the summer half-term. In six blood sampling schools, students were asked to complete a pictorial questionnaire before and after their investigations.

Results: In total, 134 children aged 4-7 years (n=40) or 8-11 years (n=95) completed the pictorial questionnaire fully or partially. Prior to sampling, oral fluid sampling was the most acceptable test (107/132, 81%) followed by throat swabs (80/134, 59%), nose swabs (77/132, 58%), and blood tests (48/130, 37%). Younger students were more nervous about all tests than older students but, after completing their tests, most children reported a “better than expected” experience with all the investigations. Students were more likely to agree to additional testing for nose swabs (93/113, 82%) and oral fluid (93/114, 82%), followed by throat swabs (85/113, 75%) and blood tests (72/108, 67%). Parents (n=3,994) and staff (n=2,580) selected a preference for weekly testing with nose swabs, throat swabs or oral fluid sampling, although staff were more flexible about testing frequency.

Conclusions: Primary school staff and parents were supportive of regular tests for SARS-CoV-2 and selected a preference for weekly testing. Children preferred nose swabs and oral fluids over throat swabs or blood sampling.

Note: Funding Statement: This surveillance was funded by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC)

Declaration of Interests: The author has no competing interests.

Ethics Approval Statement: The surveillance protocol was approved by the Public Health England Research Ethics Governance Group (R&D REGG Ref: NR0209, 16 May 2020)

Keywords: SARS-CoV-2 infection, COVID-19, schools, transmission, students, teachers

JEL Classification: I18

Suggested Citation

Aiano, Felicity and Jones, Samuel and Amin-Chowdhury, Zahin and Flood, Jessica and Okike, Ifeanyichukwu and Brent, Andrew J. and Brent, Bernadette and Beckmann, Joanne and Garstang, Joanna and Ahmad, Shazaad and Baawuah, Frances and Ramsay, Mary E. and Ladhani, Shamez, Feasibility and Acceptability of SARS-CoV-2 Testing and Surveillance in Primary School Children in England (March 12, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3803334 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3803334

Felicity Aiano (Contact Author)

Government of the United Kingdom - Public Health England Colindale ( email )

Samuel Jones

Government of the United Kingdom - Public Health England Colindale

61 Colindale Avenue
London, NW9 5EQ
United Kingdom

Zahin Amin-Chowdhury

Public Health England - Immunisation and Countermeasures Division ( email )

London
United Kingdom

Jessica Flood

Public Health England - Immunisation and Countermeasures Division

61 Colindale Avenue
London, NW9 5EQ
United Kingdom

Ifeanyichukwu Okike

Government of the United Kingdom - Public Health England Colindale

61 Colindale Avenue
London, NW9 5EQ
United Kingdom

Andrew J. Brent

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust ( email )

Bernadette Brent

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust ( email )

Joanne Beckmann

East London NHS Foundation Trust ( email )

Joanna Garstang

Government of the United Kingdom - Public Health England Colindale

61 Colindale Avenue
London, NW9 5EQ
United Kingdom

Shazaad Ahmad

University of Manchester - Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust

Oxford Road
Manchester, M13 9PL
United Kingdom

Frances Baawuah

Government of the United Kingdom - Public Health England Colindale

61 Colindale Avenue
London, NW9 5EQ
United Kingdom

Mary E. Ramsay

Public Health England - Immunisation, Hepatitis, and Blood Safety Department ( email )

United Kingdom

Shamez Ladhani

Public Health England - Immunisation and Countermeasures Division ( email )

61 Colindale Avenue
London, NW9 5EQ
United Kingdom

University of London, St. George's, Paediatric Infectious Diseases Research Group

United Kingdom

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
11
Abstract Views
310
PlumX Metrics