As the numbers of those vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus is steadily rising, a question continues to bother many — should one get an antibody test done even if they are inoculated.
Though the situation in many countries seems to be improving, one must note that the pandemic isn’t over yet. Wearing of masks and other WHO-recommended or government-mandated guidelines need to be adhered to at all times.
The best way to contain the spread of the virus is to get vaccinated. Fortunately, sustained vaccination drives in countries around the world are showing favourable results as more people are lining up to get their jabs.
According to World Health Organization (WHO), 6,545,309,084 vaccine doses have been administered as of 18 October, 2021. On 21 October, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that India has completed one billion vaccinations — a phenomenal achievement given the many administrative, societal, political, bureaucratic and policy problems that the country of over 1.3 billion people is burdened with.
With the gradual increase in vaccinations in the world, people also want to know whether they have the required antibodies to fight the COVID-19 virus, SARS-CoV-2.
What is an antibody test?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the national public health agency of the US, “antibody or serology tests look for antibodies in your blood that fight the virus that causes COVID-19.”
In the US, antibody tests can be done at authorised laboratories and through healthcare professionals. However, decisions on testing are taken by local or state health departments and professionals.
What does ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ mean in antibody tests?
A “positive” result means the test subject has antibodies from either a previous COVID-19 infection or the vaccine present in the body. According to the CDC, even those who have been asymptomatic can have antibodies. However, the issue is that, a person may test “positive” even if the body has no antibodies present. This is called a “false positive”, says the CDC.
Meanwhile, a “negative” result presents the opposite, meaning the body has no antibodies present. This could be because the test subject has never been infected with the virus or is not vaccinated.
Similar to “false positive”, test results, in this case, can be “false negative” too, which would mean despite having been infected by the virus or being vaccinated, SARS-CoV-2 antibodies go undetected in a test subject.
Should you take the test?
No, there is no need to go for an antibody test.
On 19 May, 2021, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a statement, urging people not to consider even authorised SARS-CoV-2 antibody tests as an evaluation of their protection status from the COVID virus.
The FDA recommends consulting a healthcare provider if someone tests “positive” because it could mean anything, including a previous infection from the virus and not antibodies from vaccination.
“A COVID-19 vaccination may also cause a positive antibody test result for some but not all antibody tests,” the FDA says.
The American agency also says that “researchers do not know whether the presence of antibodies means that you are immune to COVID-19; or if you are immune, how long it will last.”
Making matters worse, an antibody test can be completely useless.
According to MIT Medical, the protection levels needed against serious illnesses, symptomatic illnesses or infections might not be gauged by antibody tests.
Taking the jab is the best way to prevent the virus from rampaging through lives. While the situation was dire around the world last year, things were much worse in many countries that were hit by a devastating second wave early this year.
Underlining the urgency of the situation and the need for a safer and healthier world, the WHO recommends taking “whatever vaccine is made available to you first, even if you have already had COVID-19.” It reminds us that even though “no vaccine is 100 percent protective,” the approved vaccines can prevent serious illness and thereby death from the virus.
At the same time, even vaccinated people must continue taking necessary precautions and follow other WHO recommendations to ensure that the virus doesn’t spread.
So, get vaccinated today.
(Main and Featured images: Fusion Medical Animation/@fusion_medical_animation/Unsplash)
Manas Sen Gupta enjoys reading detective fiction and writing about anything that interests him. When not doing either of the two, he checks Instagram for the latest posts by travellers. Winter is his favourite season and he can happily eat a bowl of noodles any time of the day.