Researchers worried COVID-19 antibodies may not lead to lasting immunity

Local News

LUBBOCK, Texas — At Reverse Mind and Body, people have been coming from around Lubbock to get tests for antibodies to COVID-19. While many are curious, most are wondering if having antibodies to COVID-19 could make you immune to the virus. 

“A lot of people are asymptomatic so they have no idea. [But] the people that have come back with positive with antibodies, a lot of them were the ones that were hospitalized,” said Reverse Mind and Body Office Manager Sheena Sotherland. “This is all still new and people and doctors don’t know if it makes you immune.”

The antibody tests are able to confirm one thing: whether or not someone has had COVID-19. The tests are unable to tell whether or not someone is immune to the virus once they have antibodies, however. 

“We have seen some reports that antibody levels begin to go away; they begin to wane very shortly after the antibody response has been induced,” said Chief Executive Office of Covenant Health Partners, Dr. Michael Robertson. 

Researchers have found that antibodies in the body of someone who has had COVID-19 do begin to lessen overtime.

“The long and the short of it is that we really don’t know if having antibodies will prevent someone from getting reinfected again in a couple of months, or later this year when the virus is still prevalent. That is the thing that really concerns us,” said Dr. Robertson. 

While much research is being done using antibodies as a way of finding a vaccine, Dr. Robertson doesn’t think antibodies are the key to finding it. Instead, he believes antibodies serve a different purpose:

“The antibody tests are helpful in terms of identifying those who have had an infection with COVID-19 if they have adequate amounts of antibodies in their system then their plasma could be harvested and used on someone who is acutely ill with a COVID-19 infection,” said Dr. Robertson.  

While tests done by most clinics are highly accurate, Dr. Robertson still warns that even those who test positive need to be careful. 

“If you test positive and you think you have antibodies and you don’t you might take some undue risk with your health and put yourself in a position where you got exposed to COVID-19 thinking you might be immune and in reality you don’t have any immunity at all,” said Dr. Robertson. 

Antibody tests can cost around $100 and Dr. Robertson advises that people who have been tested for antibodies should still social distance, wear a mask and follow the state guidelines. 

“You still need to wash your hands that would help diminish your risk of being infected or god forbid spreading an infection to someone else,” said Dr. Robertson. 

Reverse Mind and Body, University Medical Center and Covenant Health are a few of the places in the area that offer antibody testing. Most tests are either a finger prick or a blood draw, and can take anywhere form 15 minutes to 48 hours to get results back. 

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