- The WHO emphasized that "there is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from Covid-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection."
- Some nations, which are suffering the heavy economic consequences due to strict restrictions, are now are considering allowing people to resume work.
- Several governments, including Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the state of New York, in the United States, have begun testing antibodies of residents.
The World Health Organization (WHO) called on governments not to issue so-called “immunity passports,” or “safety certificates” for the new coronavirus. The idea, based on antibody tests, has been gaining ground as countries decide how to relax behavioral restrictions and lockdowns and return to normal life.
The WHO emphasized that “there is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from Covid-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection.” They warned that people who had recovered from an initial infection could be encouraged to spread the infection by issuing such a “certificate,” and removing the restrictions on their activities. The WHO is concerned that people who believe that they are already immune may abandon preventive measures.
Some nations, which are suffering the heavy economic consequences due to strict restrictions, are now are considering allowing people to resume work. At press time, according to Worldometers, more than 2.9 million infections have been confirmed worldwide. Over 203,000 people have died, while nearly 839,000 people have recovered.
“At this point in the pandemic, there is not enough evidence about the effectiveness of antibody-mediated immunity to guarantee the accuracy of an ‘immunity passport’ or ‘risk-free certificate’,” the note said. “People who assume that they are immune to a second infection because they have received a positive test result may ignore public health advice. The use of such certificates may therefore increase the risks of continued transmission.”
Previous studies have found that while people who have recovered from COVID-19 have antibodies in their blood, some have very low levels of antibodies. In addition, it is said that, in addition to viral antibodies, T cells that kill infected cells may be essential for recovery.
The WHO further noted that tests to detect antibodies in the blood will continue to require work to confirm their accuracy. Antibody tests accurately identify the differences between the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the so-called new coronavirus) that caused this pandemic and the six previously confirmed coronaviruses.
Chile announced in the middle of this month that it will issue “health passports” to those who are likely to recover from COVID-19. If they are confirmed to have antibodies, they can go back to work. In addition, several governments, including Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the state of New York, in the United States, have begun testing antibodies of residents. The British government plans to test 25,000 people every month for the next year to check for the presence of antibodies and for infection.
The purpose of this is to obtain information on how much immunity is gained by recovering from COVID-19 and how long it lasts. By doing so, it is judged whether giving a test to the individual and determining the immunity level is an effective means in the future.
Sweden does not enforce strict action restrictions, such as lockdowns, and continues a certain level of economic activities. Attention has been paid to what happens to the immunity of a Swedish inhabitant compared to the inhabitants of the region, where their actions are severely restricted by the lockdown. Belgium, which has a particularly high death toll, announced a policy to gradually ease the lockdown starting May 11. The Belgian government scientific adviser strongly opposed to introducing an “immune passport.”
“As of 24 April 2020, no study has evaluated whether the presence of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 confers immunity to subsequent infection by this virus in humans,” the WHO paper said. Prior to WHO’s suggestion, there was an urgent need for reliable antibody testing to accurately determine the duration and effects of antibodies.
It’s still unclear if the presence of antibodies means immunity to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, but early data suggests that it may be a reasonable alternative. The information is being considered.