April 27, 2020 / Kevin Anderton, Contributor
A lot of information has been circulating about COVID-19 antibody tests in New York. There were a few tests, a few surveys, a few news stories, and a lot of information. It is important to separate what these tests actually tell us from what we want to hear. There are more than a few myths and misconceptions about antibodies going around and I am going to go over 4 of them.
1. Antibodies Equal Immunity
The short answer to this myth is that we have no evidence that antibodies will make people immune or offer any protection. Most experts agree that after the initial infection people will have some degree of immunity for some amount of time. But we do not know that for sure and even if it is true we do not know how much protection it will grant or for how long. It could be minor protection for a few weeks or major protection for a few years.
Anthony Fauci sounded hopeful when he said “It’s a reasonable assumption that this virus is not changing very much. If we get infected now and it comes back next February or March we think this person is going to be protected.” That comment, however, relies on assumption and not evidence. This doesn’t mean he is wrong it just means we don’t know if he is right.
The World Health Organization spoke words of caution when they said that scientists need to study people who have recovered over a long period of time. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO, stated at a recent briefing “Right now, we have no evidence that the use of a serologic test can show that an individual is immune or is protected from reinfection.”
In addition, the presence of antibodies is not a yes or no issue. The number of antibodies in a person’s system and the amount of time they have been there are both factors. We do not know what level of antibody presence is necessary to protect an individual from reinfection.