As states push forward with reopening plans and people head back to work, many are wondering if they may be immune to COVID-19.
There are actually multiple ways you can be tested for COVID antibodies in Delaware, and one does not require a doctor’s prescription. But first, we need to understand who should get tested and what kind of information you can expect, including the most basic – will such a test prove you can’t get COVID-19 again?
Covid immunity is achieved by having antibodies that can neutralize a pathogen. Antibodies are proteins made by your immune system after it has fought an infection. They can help your body fight off subsequent infections if the pathogen re-enters your body. You can know if you have them by getting a blood sample test.
Antibody tests do not detect current COVID-19 infections.
People with Covid should wait two weeks before getting tested for antibodies
So if you are showing symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to the virus recently, you should consider getting a diagnostic test. You should wait at least two weeks before considering an antibody test, as antibodies take a while to develop.
Antibody tests can also be used to identify potential convalescent plasma donors. Convalescent plasma — blood containing COVID-19 antibodies — can be used as an experimental treatment for patients with severe symptoms of COVID-19 or infections that may not be responding to other treatments.
Three antibody testing opportunities in Delaware
In Delaware, there are three places to get an antibody test.
LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics offer tests that are performed at their testing centers. Both tests require a prescription from a doctor. But you can acquire one through the offered telehealth consultation with a PWNHealth doctor for $10. The doctor can then prescribe the test if you meet the criteria.
The tests vary in cost depending on the company and the prescriber. For the LabCorp test, the cost of the test is billed to your insurance company (you may have to pay a copay) or the federal government if you are uninsured.
For the Quest Diagnostics test, if prescribed by PWNHealth, the cost is $120 (not including the cost of the consultation). If your doctor prescribed it, it will be billed to your insurance or the federal government.
If these tests are cost-prohibitive or inaccessible to you, there is a third option: donating blood. For a limited time, the Red Cross is testing all blood, plasma, and platelet donations for COVID-19 antibodies, so if you’re an eligible donor, you can obtain free testing while saving a life simultaneously.
Drawbacks to Covid antibody testing
As important as testing is in a pandemic, antibody tests can only tell you whether you’ve been exposed to the virus in the past. Experts aren’t certain yet whether they can prevent reinfection at all.
And there is currently no hard evidence that shows how long the antibodies last or the level of antibodies needed to prevent reinfection. Therefore, people should not purposely try to infect themselves so they can have antibodies, as that’s dangerous.
Current testing models also have some drawbacks.
For one, none of these antibody tests have been cleared or approved by the FDA; the FDA has authorized the tests for emergency use only.
The manufacturers themselves think the test performs well, but that isn’t necessarily an unbiased claim. Additionally, the test may show a positive result for antibodies for coronaviruses other than SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Unfortunately, the coronavirus crisis is not over. As Arizona and Texas face record levels of hospitalizations and measures are taken to control a new outbreak in Beijing, it’s important to continue taking precautions to protect yourself and family members.
That means even if you have COVID-19 antibodies, you should continue following CDC guidelines and local regulations, including wearing a mask and practicing social distancing.