Expert warns that new antibody tests are too late and cowboy labs must be barred from tests

Expert warns that new antibody tests are too late and cowboy labs must be barred from tests

A leading Covid-19 expert, Dr Quinton Fivelman PhD, Chief Scientific Officer at London Medical Laboratory, warns that the Government’s new scheme to roll out thousands of Covid antibody tests to members of the public should have happened much earlier. This would have provided a better understanding of people’s immune response to Covid 19, helping to clarify whether the Government should go ahead with booster jabs for over-50s.

Dr Fivelman says the large-scale launch of the new tests by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), planned to start next week, will help determine levels of antibodies in the public and how fast they might be declining over time for people who have been double jabbed. However, this information was most needed to inform the decision about whether to give booster jabs to everyone over 50, starting in September.

Says Dr Fivelman: ‘We revealed earlier this month that our tests were showing antibody levels for people who have been jabbed are now waning and warned: “This is the data that should be driving the UK’s booster jab plans”.  It’s far too late now to build up vital information to help decide whether people are protected from infection and if we need to triple jab millions of people, or just concentrate on those in most need. They might not be necessary for most people and could divert much-needed doses away from others, not just nationally but globally.

‘Not enough is known about groups that might really need extra doses, such as older people and those with compromised immune systems. There’s no time to develop an accurate national picture of how long antibodies are lasting and our research has shown that antibody levels generated by most Covid-19 vaccines have been dropping.

‘However, it’s certainly a good time for these test results to start replacing vaccine passports and cards as the best way to measure antibody levels. We need to move away from less accurate methods – such as proof of vaccination – to establish the level of potential Covid immunity in the country and how safe it is for people to return to the workplace.

‘Getting a Covid “pass” because you’ve had two jabs is like receiving a driving licence simply because you’ve turned up for the test. Covid antibody level results need to replace vaccination cards, Covid “pass” Apps and other, inaccurate ways of indicating potential protection against the infection.

‘Although we welcome next week’s mass antibody testing roll-out, the new, free antibody tests will only be supplied to a proportion of those testing positive for Covid following a PCR test. Anyone else who wants to measure their antibody levels will have to go private, so how closely will private providers of antibody tests be monitored in the future?

‘Given the number of “cowboy” labs offering Covid travel tests, anyone wanting to book a private antibody test must be assured the Government will do a better job of enforcing fair pricing and quality control standards.

‘The consumer organisation Which? raised the alarm that too many private laboratories were playing fast and loose with pricing or not providing timely results. As a result, over 50 companies have now been struck off the Government’s own list of testing providers, with 80 more being given a “two strikes and they’re out” warning.

‘There can be no room for “cowboy” providers of Covid antibody tests like there have been for PCR tests. This data is just too important and these test providers should have been shut down months ago. London Medical Laboratory has just been awarded accreditation by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS). We are proud to be one of only 5% of testing providers to have received this validation, but we believe that all laboratories undertaking Covid-19 tests should meet these standards in the future.’

Published at Wed, 25 Aug 2021 12:18:00 +0000

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