Antibody Surveillance Program Launches UK-Wide

COVID-19 antibody tests are available to the UK general public
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United Kingdom (Coronavirus Today)

The UK Department of Health and Social Care and The Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP jointly announced on August 22, 2021, the Health Security Agency is launching for the first time a UK-wide antibody surveillance program for the general public.

Home antibody tests will be available for up to 8,000 people a day across the UK.

The program will offer antibody testing to adults in the UK who test positive for the first time.

Until now, antibody testing has only been available to specific cohorts for clinical or research purposes.

Beginning August 24th, anyone aged over 18 will be able to opt in to take part when booking a PCR test through NHS Test and Trace. People who opt-in and then receive a positive PCR result will be sent two-finger prick antibody tests to complete at home and send back to a lab for analysis.

The UK Health Security Agency will work alongside NHS Test and Trace testing services in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland to monitor levels of antibodies in positive cases across the UK. 

The data will enhance the UK’s understanding of the protection provided by antibodies generated following COVID-19 infection. 

Most people make antibodies within 28 days of being infected or vaccinated, but it can take longer. 

The initiative could also provide insight into groups of people who do not develop an immune response after a COVID-19 vaccination. The UK Health Security Agency will use the data to inform our ongoing approach to COVID-19 and provide further insight into the effectiveness of the vaccines against different variants.

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid stated in a press release, “Our new national antibody testing will be quick and easy to take part in, and by doing so you’ll be helping strengthen our understanding of COVID-19 as we cautiously return to a more normal life.”

“I’m proud to see all parts of the UK uniting around this new initiative and working together to arm ourselves with even more valuable insights into how COVID-19 vaccines are protecting people up and down the UK.”

“I urge everyone across the UK to get both vaccinations as soon as possible.”

All adults interested in the study are encouraged to join. 

Anyone taking part must take their first antibody test as soon as possible after receiving a positive PCR result before the body has had time to generate a detectable antibody response to the current infection. 

The first test will determine the level of antibodies a person had before their current infection.

The second test should be taken 28 days after testing positive for COVID-19 and will measure antibodies generated in response to the infection.  

By comparing the two antibody test results, the UK Health Security Agency will see how well vaccinated individuals boost their immunity when infected and how this might vary with different variants.

However, testing positive for antibodies does not mean someone is immune from COVID-19, and people must continue to follow the rules, get tested if they have symptoms, and self-isolate if positive or are in contact with a positive case and have not received both vaccine doses, to prevent the virus from spreading, says the UK.

The NHS has guidance on looking after yourself and treating any symptoms you may have following a positive PCR result. 

However, it remains vital people continue to get a PCR swab test if they have symptoms and self-isolate when asked by NHS Test and Trace.

The initiative is for surveillance only, and the numbers will be limited to 8,000 per day.

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