WHO warns against issuing coronavirus ‘immunity passports’
A passenger carries her luggage through a nearly deserted terminal at the Tampa International Airport on Friday.(Chris O'Meara/AP)
The World Health Organization has warned that the use of “immunity passports,” issued to those who show antibodies for coronavirus, could actually further the spread of the illness.
The presence of certain proteins or antibodies in the blood indicate an exposure to the virus and that the human body has responded to it. But the agency in a scientific brief released on Friday said “there is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection.”
Giving those with antibodies special permission to return to normalcy “may therefore increase the risks of continued transmission,” the WHO emphasized..
In South Korea, at least 51 coronavirus patients have tested for the virus after making a full recovery. There have also been similar incidents in Japan and China, rendering the discussion surrounding COVID-19 immunity an uncertain one.
Government-mandated shutdowns implemented to slow the fast-spreading virus have crippled economies of nations all over the world, leaving top officials scrambling to find a healthy way to reopen nonessential businesses and industries. Many have floated the idea of using antibody tests to approve who is fit and able to return to work.
Chile earlier this month announced its intention to give all citizens with antibodies a “health passport” that would allow from them to go back to work, Reuters reported. Germany, the U.K., and several states across the U.S. are mulling similar initiatives in a bid to more quickly restart their economies.
What’s more, drugmakers and scientists are still working to develop a reliable antibody test. Current procedures have yielded false positives and can’t always distinguish between previous infection by the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the six other known coronaviruses in circulation.
Worldwide, the pandemic has infected more than 2.8 million, according to Johns Hopkins University.