Coronavirus Immunity Passport
Prolonged phases of COVID-19 lockdown across the world have severely affected the economies and the governments have their task cut out to choose lives or livelihoods. Some governments, such as the United Kingdom, have come up with an idea of ‘immunity Passport’ or ‘risk-free certificate’ that will enable people who have recovered from the Covid-19 infection to return to work.
- The idea of Immunity passport or risk-free certificate is built on the premise that people who have developed antibodies adequate enough after warding off Coronavirus can neither catch infection again nor spread the disease further.
- The World Health Organization (WHO), the global body overseeing the Covid-19 response across the world has said that there is not enough data and substantial evidence to claim that people once infected and recovered from Coronavirus can’t be reinfected with it.
- It argues that the body targets the virus inside the body by the combined process of development of specific antibodies that bind with the virus and the action of T-cells to destroy cells infected with the virus.
- Most of these studies show that people who have recovered from infection have antibodies to the Coronavirus. However, some of these people have very low levels of neutralizing antibodies in their blood, suggesting that cellular immunity may also be critical for recovery.
- As of 24 April 2020, no study has evaluated whether the presence of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 confers immunity to subsequent infection by this virus in humans”, said the WHO in its briefing.
- The WHO too agrees that if this combined response is strong enough, it will provide resistance against re-occurrence of the Covid-19 infection.
- WHO has said that there are not enough studies available on the amount of neutralising antibodies after a patient’s recovery from Coronavirus and in some cases it may be too less to expose to infection all over again.
- Subsequently, the WHO has warned that the move such as issuing Immunity passports may lead to continuation of transmission.
- WHO’s advisory can be put in context by the fact that hundreds of people who had tested negative in South Korea turned out to test positive for Covid-19 later.
- The WHO has said that the issue of false negative and false positive both hinder the efforts to stop the public transmission of the disease and in the circumstances when accuracies of different models of testing across different countries are not 100 per cent, the issuance of Immunity passport will further deepen the crisis.
- Earlier, British Health Minister Mat Hancock had on April 2 revealed the nature of the immunity passports and said that these will be similar to vaccine certificates.