Over the course of the past two years, the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) has spread all over the world. RIVM is investigating immunity to SARS-CoV-2 among the general population in the Netherlands. In the PIENTER Corona study, we are collecting information about antibodies in the blood of the people who are participating. By doing so, RIVM aims to learn more about protecting people from the virus. We are also collecting information about the number of people who have been in contact with the virus and have built up immunity following vaccination.

Not everyone becomes ill or develops severe symptoms from SARS-CoV-2. The symptoms are often mild, and sometimes people have no symptoms at all, but some people have long-term symptoms after a SARS-CoV-2 infection. Most people who are infected with the virus will generate antibodies. By now, much of the general population in the Netherlands has been inoculated by receiving a COVID-19 vaccination. They are also developing antibodies against the coronavirus. RIVM is researching immunity among people of different ages throughout the Netherlands. The study provides important information about the development and duration of immunity to the virus among the Dutch population.

How does the study work?

The PIENTER Corona Study was launched in April 2020 with 3200 participants, and another 4500 participants were added in June 2020. Many of these 7700 participants have taken part in several rounds of the study by now. The research project has been extended and new participants were invited in autumn 2021, joining the existing participants. As a result, it will be possible to monitor the duration of coronavirus immunity at all ages even more effectively.

Participants are asked to fill in a questionnaire (provided in a digital format), and to collect a fingerprick blood sample (using a self-sampling set) and send a small tube containing the collected blood to RIVM. These blood samples are tested in the laboratory for antibodies against the coronavirus. Participants will be asked to do this several times over the coming months.

The 7th round of the PIENTER Corona Study started in March 2022. The 8th round of the study is expected to start in June 2022.

Publishing results

After each round of research, RIVM publishes a summary of the results on the website. This always takes several months, since various steps are involved in the process leading from the start of a round to the final research results:

  • We invite participants to take part in a new round of research, and ask them to send in a blood sample and complete a survey.
  • Within about a month, most of the blood samples have arrived at RIVM.
  • We examine the blood samples in the laboratory to check for antibodies and determine antibody levels.
  • We perform quality checks on the laboratory tests.
  • The data from the completed surveys is processed into a database.
  • Then we compile the data from the surveys and the research data from the laboratory tests. The initial, preliminary results are shared with official bodies that make decisions about COVID-19 policies and vaccination recommendations, such as the Health Council of the Netherlands and the Ministry of Health, Welfare an Sport (VWS).
  • The definitive analyses and results are processed in scientific articles. Then a summary of the key results is published on the RIVM website.¬†