The Financial Express

Covid antibody test: Why is the delay? 

| Updated: October 02, 2021 13:38:00

Covid antibody test: Why is the delay? 

Medical researchers are certain that antibodies triggered in humans by the deadly SARS-CoV-2 virus infection or vaccines start waning after a few months.

But they, until now, do not have a clear idea about the whole waning process. The waning of antibodies might vary from one Covid vaccine to another, from one individual to another and from one geographical area to another. The investigations are on.

The antibodies in the elderly and immunocompromised people, however, decrease faster than others.

Thus, vaccines developed so far by many drug and biotech companies against coronavirus will not give any permanent or lifetime protection unlike the ones used in some viral diseases.

Scientists are not yet unanimous about the use of booster doses against the SARS-CoV-2 virus infection. A few countries having a small population, however, have started using the booster dose. But most countries are awaiting a final say from the leading medical research organisations.

Then again, most countries are not in a position to think about the booster dose since they are yet to inoculate a respectable percentage of their populations with Covid vaccines either for the unavailability of vaccines or for a cash crunch. The governments in these countries are busy administering the first or second doses of vaccines. They are not prepared to think about the booster dose right at this moment. But they will have to take the issue into cognizance soon.

Before administering the third or booster dose to anyone, it is important to have antibody tests. Such tests are widely available in most countries. But that is not the case with Bangladesh.

The government on January 24 last, according to a newspaper report, allowed antibody tests. It issued a guideline to this effect on March 11. The fact remains that no private or public hospital and diagnostic centre does the Covid antibody test other than for research purposes. The government has not allowed the test at the individual level. The diagnostic laboratories in neighbouring India are allowed to carry out the antibody test at the individual level at a reasonable cost. The reason for not allowing the same here remains unknown.

It is important for an individual, either recovered from Covid infection or jabbed with two doses of vaccine, to know whether he or she has the level of antibodies required to fight the virus effectively. The elderly with underlying health issues or immunocompromised people do need to know the same more than anybody else. But they do not have that opportunity despite the fact that the government, on paper, has allowed it.

This is one of many issues where the country's health authorities had shown inexcusable indifference and incompetence during one of the worst times of human history. Both fatality and rate of Covid infection are now at low levels. But people would not forget their failures when infections had reached their peaks on several occasions since the pandemic began in March last year.

The government should immediately allow Covid antibody test both at private and public health facilities. It should also consider giving booster doses to people who do not have antibodies to fight the deadly pathogen.


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