On Friday, the World Health Organization said there is currently “no evidence” that people who have recovered from COVID-19 are protected from getting the virus and illness again.
The World Health Organization released their findings Friday, in this scientific brief.
"Some governments have suggested that the detection of antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, could serve as the basis for an 'immunity passport' or 'risk-free certificate' that would enable individuals to travel or to return to work assuming that they are protected against re-infection," wrote WHO scientists. "There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection."
Coronavirus antibody testing is exploding in the United States, with an ever-increasing number of doctor's offices, urgent care centers and hospitals now offering antibody testing. Antibodies are proteins that the body makes in response to a virus; nearly all people who have recovered from a COVID-19 infection show varying levels of antibodies in their blood.
Elected officials, such as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, are touting the antibody testing as a crucial step that will allow the United States to re-open. Last week, the Chilean government announced it will start issuing “health passports” to people who have recovered from COVID-19 and can immediately rejoin the workforce, according to Reuters.
And President Trump's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said last week the White House coronavirus task force was discussing the idea of “certificates of immunity,” which would similarly be issued to COVID survivors in America.
But the WHO cautions these immunity certificates could very well be meaningless. Not only that, but they could be dangerous and allow the virus to continue to continue to spread.
"As of 24 April 2020, no study has evaluated whether the presence of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 confers immunity to subsequent infection by this virus in humans," cautioned the WHO.
"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," said the WHO. "People who assume that they are immune to a second infection because they have received a positive test result may ignore public health advice. The use of such certificates may therefore increase the risks of continued transmission."
The blood of recovered COVID patients is also being used in plasma transfusions to help those dying from the virus. While these blood plasma transfusions have shown success, particularly in this New Jersey example, it is regarded as experimental treatment for coronavirus.
The Food and Drug Administration approved blood plasma clinical trials earlier this April.
The WHO said they support antibody testing, particularly on healthcare and front-line workers. However, they said most of the antibody testing being done currently only shows exactly that: Levels of antibodies. It does not prove immunity.
"Most are not designed to determine whether those people are immune to secondary infections," said the WHO.