UK launches new surveillance programme to gauge vaccine effectivenesstext_fields
The UK government on Sunday rolled out a new nationwide antibody surveillance programme. Starting from Tuesday, the new programme will make free home antibody tests available for up to 8000 COVID-positive people a day. Anyone over 18 will be able to opt in to take part when booking a PCR COVID-19 test through NHS Test and Trace system.
"Our new national antibody testing will be quick and easy to take part in, and by doing so you'll be helping strengthen our understanding of COVID-19 as we cautiously return to a more normal life," said UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid.
"I'm proud to see all parts of the UK uniting around this new initiative and working together to arm ourselves with even more valuable insights into how COVID-19 vaccines are protecting people up and down the UK," he said.
The finger prick tests shall be offered by the UK Health Security Agency. They said that they would work alongside NHS Test and Trace testing services in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to monitor the level of antibodies in positive cases across the UK. It will also help improve the understanding of immunity against COVID-19 from vaccination and infection and help estimate the proportion of those who got COVID-19 despite developing antibodies. The initiative could also provide insight into any groups of people who do not develop an immune response.
The data will be used to inform the ongoing approach to COVID-19 and will help provide further insight into the effectiveness of vaccines against variants.
"We are rolling out antibody testing across the UK to gain vital data into the impact of our vaccination programme and on immune responses to different variants of COVID-19," said Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of the UK National Health Security Agency.
"This innovative programme is only possible thanks to the thousands of people who continue to help with studies on vaccine and treatment effectiveness each week. The best way to protect yourself and those around you is by getting vaccinated. I encourage anyone who has not yet come forward to book their first and second jabs," she said.
All adults will be encouraged to try it. Those attempting it must first take their antibody tests soon after receiving a positive PCR result to ensure that the body hasn't had time to generate a detectable antibody response to the current infection. This first test will help ascertain the level of antibodies someone had before their current infection. The second test must be taken 28 days after testing positive. This will measure the antibodies generated post-infection.
The Agency will then compare the two test results and gauge how well vaccinate individuals boost their immunity when infected. This will also help ascertain how this varies with different variants. However, testing positive does not assure that someone is immune from COVID. People must continue to follow the rules, get tested on noticing symptoms, and self-isolate if positive or are in contact with a positive case or haven't received both vaccine doses, they warned.
"Our testing armoury is stronger than ever now we are rolling out antibody testing to thousands of people in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland alongside the vast testing capacity we have built, including our NHS Test and Trace system," said Dr Susan Hopkins, Public Health England's (PHE) COVID-19 Strategic Response Director.
"Antibody testing surveillance shows how health teams across the UK are dedicated to working together to find innovative ways to understand the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines and target future treatments for COVID-19," she said.
Antibody testing is aimed at contributing to the understanding of the protection provided by vaccines, as official figures in the UK show that 87 per cent of people aged 16 and over have now received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose, and 76 per cent have had their second dose.