BRITAIN – The United Kingdom has announced it will begin offering COVID-19 antibody testing to the general public in the coming week for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government’s new programme is intended to produce data on antibody protections for people following infection by different coronavirus variants, according to details of the programme published by multiple media outlets.
From Tuesday, anyone aged 18 or over in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, will be able to opt in to the programme when receiving a PCR test.
Participants, on testing positive for COVID-19, will be sent two finger-prick tests to complete at home to inform the UK Health Security Agency of the antibody response to different coronavirus variants.
The first of these tests should be taken as soon as possible after the patient receives their positive result, and the second should be taken 28 days later.
Up to 8,000 people will be enrolled in the programme, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), which is running it. UKHSA, working alongside NHS Test and Trace, will use the results to monitor antibody levels in positive cases.
Meanwhile Britain has agreed to buy 35 million more doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech -19 vaccine, to be delivered from the second half of next year, as part of its preparations for booster shots and any new variants that could emerge.
“While we continue to build this wall of defence from COVID-19, it’s also vital we do everything we can to protect the country for the future too, whether that’s from the virus as we know it or new variants,” health minister Sajid Javid said.
Third jabs for vulnerable groups in the UK, including all over-50s, are set to begin as early as next month after the Government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation issues its final advice.
It comes as an Israeli study found that among over-60s, protection from infection was four times higher 10 days after a booster dose of Pfizer than those who had received two, however experts have questioned whether regular Covid-19 vaccines will be needed.
The UK has so far to administer 89.3 million vaccine doses, with 62.6% of its population being fully vaccinated.