A COVID-19 antibody test is a blood test that is used to determine whether you have detectable antibodies for coronavirus. If you have had COVID-19 already or had the vaccine against it, your body may have produced antibodies to fight off the virus should you be exposed to it again. An antibody is a specialised protein that helps fight infection, produced by the body’s immune system when it detects antigens.
Free antibody tests are not currently widely available, provided only for certain people who are either taking part in research or work in primary care, social care or education. However, rapid Covid tests like the Healgen rapid antigen test are quick, easy and cost effective for those wanting peace of mind..
Can I pay for a COVID-19 antibody test?
If you are not eligible for a free COVID-19 antibody test but would like one, you can pay to be tested at a private clinic or order an at-home antibody test online. You may choose to do this if you are curious about whether you’ve had the virus already.
You can still have the antibody test if you’ve had the COVID-19 vaccine, but you should wait at least 14 days after your first or second dose for the most accurate results.
What does an antibody test tell you?
A COVID-19 antibody test can tell you if it’s likely that you’ve been infected with coronavirus before, but if antibodies are detected it cannot confirm when you had the virus or for how long these antibodies may last.
An antibody test cannot tell you if you’re immune to coronavirus or if you can or cannot spread the virus to other people. Whatever your result, you must continue to follow government guidelines to keep yourself and others safe.
What does the test involve?
The COVID-19 antibody test is a quick and simple procedure that involves collecting a sample of your blood. This can be done either by a trained nurse in a private clinic or by yourself at home. If you’re using an at-home test kit, you’ll need to prick your finger to produce blood before returning it to a specialist lab that will then analyse the sample to test it for COVID-19 antibodies. A testing kit will come with full step-by-step instructions, making the process straightforward.
What if my antibody test comes back positive?
A positive result shows that the test detected COVID-19 antibodies, which means it’s likely that you have had coronavirus before, even if you didn’t experience symptoms at the time. A positive result does not however guarantee that you are immune to further infection from COVID-19 and it is still possible to catch and spread the virus to others.
Even with a positive test result, it remains unclear how much protection the antibodies may provide or how long this protection may last. Antibodies are just one part of a complex immune response that is triggered when a person is infected with COVID-19 and if reinfection were to occur, a lack of antibodies does not mean the immune system wouldn’t be unable to respond in other ways. Similarly, a positive test result does not guarantee that there’s a high enough concentration of antibodies to provide protection from reinfection.
This is why it’s so important to regularly wash your hands, wear face coverings and follow social distancing rules no matter your test result, as well as take regular COVID-19 tests if they are made available to you.
What are the benefits of COVID-19 antibody tests?
Although an antibody test cannot confirm immunity to COVID-19, there are still benefits to taking one. These tests help the NHS and scientists learn more about how the virus has spread, which helps them predict future transmission. They can do this by determining what proportion of the population is still at risk or by identifying specific environments where transmission is at its highest. Antibody test results can be invaluable to researchers as part of the effort to reduce transmission, as the information gained from these can help them to understand trends in past cases and guide local public health responses. It can also help to identify groups who may be at increased risk.