The Covid-19 vaccination rollout has been an incredible success – the biggest programme of its kind in history, made possible through a combination of groundbreaking science, innovation and logistics.
Now, especially in countries where a large percentage of the population has been double vaccinated, the conversation is turning to immunity.
How do we know who has immunity?
As much of the world takes its first steps back to normal life, many people will want to know if they are immune to the virus. So, how do they find out?
There are two types of immunity:
- Natural immunity – when someone develops antibodies after a Covid infection
- Vaccine-derived immunity – when someone develops antibodies a Covid vaccination
Research shows natural immunity to Covid can last up to eight months.
However, there are uncertainties. We don’t know exactly how many people have been infected with Covid-19, or how many people who’ve had the virus have developed natural immunity.
And, because not everyone who has been tested has had their results data captured and recorded, we are less informed than we could be about how and where the virus has spread.
So, how can we gauge immunity levels?
Until now, we’ve focused on antigen testing for Covid – testing for the presence of the virus in the body using rapid lateral flow tests.
With more people fully vaccinated, we now need to change our focus to antibody testing.
These lateral flow tests can tell if people have had Covid-19 by detecting antibodies in the blood.
Like antigen tests, they give results within 15 minutes and can be done at home. Some can even be quantitative, showing what level of antibodies are present in the blood – though this typically means a trained test administrator has to be present as quantitative tests often use separate hardware to interpret results.
Antibody testing should be seen as a data gathering exercise
At this stage of the pandemic antibody tests can be used to gain invaluable data, for governments, workplaces and even individuals.
Testing large numbers of people could help determine how many people have Covid antibodies and therefore might have immunity.
Large-scale antibody testing has already been carried out, so we know it works and gathers valuable data. A study into antibody tests by Imperial College London found antibodies in almost all (96 per cent) of those tested who had a previous infection.
Antibody tests could also be part of a package of measures adopted by employers. Using a combination of regular antigen and antibody testing, with data capture, employers could keep their workforces safe without having to mandate vaccinations.
Many people will be comfortable doing periodic antibody tests, regardless of vaccination status, as they will be curious to find out and prove their level of protection.
But there’s little value to antibody testing unless the data is captured at the source using a data management platform like Transform®.
Transform can be deployed for large-scale organisation/employee testing to give real-time overview of test results, infections and essential staff or visitor data. This gives organisations a valuable tool that can be used as evidence to show compliance with detailed history of test records.
Or it can be rolled out with retail antibody or antigen tests for use at home, giving the person who’s testing a detailed record of their COVID-19 status and their most recent tests.
Some people might feel intimidated by antibody testing, or see no purpose in it. But if the test comes with an app that gives them a shareable email report of their antibody status, they might be more willing to use it to report results.