WHO warns against antibody immunity ‘passports’ as confirmed coronavirus cases surpass 900,000 in U.S
The World Health Organization has in stronger terms warned against issuing “immunity passports” to people who have beaten coronavirus as there was currently not enough evidence that a person who has recovered from covid-19 is immune from a second infection.
And this is coming as the known coronavirus death toll in the United States surpassed 50,000, with more than 900,000 confirmed cases, though the true figure is unknown.
Also, about 650 prisoners have tested positive for the covid-19 at a Michigan facility which houses inmates whose age or chronic health conditions make them particularly vulnerable to the virus.
But some officials in hard-hit countries are suggesting a system of immunity passports as a route out of the coronavirus crisis. In other word, people who have already had the disease and thereby gained immunity could be given permits to live their lives mostly like they did before the pandemic.
For instance, immediately after emerging from self-isolation after testing positive for Covid-19, the UK’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced in early April that the British government was considering an “immunity certificate” system to allow those who qualify to “get back as much as possible to normal life”.
“Immunity Passports” In The Context of COVID-19
The World Health Organization is against the theory that individuals can only catch the coronavirus once, as well as proposals for reopening society that are based on this supposed immunity which some governments have suggested that the detection of antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19,
And the WHO said in a briefing note state that “There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from Covid-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection.”
Interestingly, most studies done so far has revealed that people who had recovered from infection had antibodies in their blood and even without COVID–19 symptoms – but some of these people had very low levels of antibodies.
And this suggested that another part of the body’s immune response – T-cells that eliminate infected cells may also be “critical” for recovery.
As of Friday no study had evaluated whether the presence of antibodies to the virus conferred immunity to subsequent infection by the virus in humans, the WHO said.
“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’,” it said.
The organisation also said laboratory tests to detect antibodies needed further validation to determine their accuracy and also needed to distinguish between previous infection by the SARS-CoV-2 virus – which has caused the pandemic – and the six other known coronaviruses in circulation.