Background Little is known about the population prevalence of antibodies against emerging immune escape variants of SARS-CoV-2.
Methods A population-based prevalence study was conducted in Yokohama City, the most populous municipality of Japan. Quantitative measurements of immunoglobulin G against SARS-CoV-2 spike protein (SP-IgG) and qualitative measurements of neutralization antibodies against the Omicron BA.1 and BA.2 variants were performed.
Results Of 6,000 randomly selected residents aged 20–74, 1,277 participated in the study during a period from January 30 to February 28, 2022. Of them, 3% had prior diagnosis of COVID-19, 96% received at least two-doses of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines, and 94% were positive for SP-IgG. The positive rates of neutralizing antibodies were 28% to Omicron BA.1 and BA.2 variants in a random sample of 10% of participants (n=123) and 100% to BA.1 and BA.2 among participants who received the third vaccination at least 7 days before (n=66).
Conclusions In this population-based prevalence study in Japan, most had SP-IgG antibodies but the overall neutralizing antibody positive rate was 28% against the Omicron BA.1 and BA.2 variants. The population-level insufficient humoral immunity against the Omicron variants may explain the outbreak of COVID-19 during this period in Japan.