Large-scale antibody testing for COVID-19 can help the government understand the immunity in previously infected individuals and vaccinated individuals, as well as creating a safer working environment, National Taiwan University (NTU) College of Public Health professor Tony Chen (陳秀熙) said yesterday.
In his weekly online broadcast on COVID-19 issues, Chen yesterday invited Wang Sen-te (王森德), an attending physician at Taipei Medical University Hospital’s (TMUH) Family Medicine Department, to discuss the importance of large-scale antibody testing.
Wang is also the host of a large-scale COVID-19 antibody testing project in Taipei’s Wanhua District (萬華), implemented by the Taipei City Government, TMUH and NTU’s College of Public Health, and announced by the city government earlier this month.
Of average full vaccination coverage in the populated continents, Europe has the highest rate at 59.53 percent, followed by North America with 55.18 percent, South America with 47.92 percent, Asia with 37.06 percent, Oceania with 30.56 percent and Africa with 4.75 percent, Chen said.
As global vaccination coverage increases, the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies differs by nation, so antibody testing is needed to understand whether the immunity levels induced through natural infection and vaccination can provide a degree of protection against future infections, he said.
Wanhua District was one of the hotspots when the local outbreak of COVID-19 occurred in May, Wang said.
The district with a population of about 180,000 had more than 2,000 confirmed cases, and the antibody testing project is using random sampling to find 5,000 adult participants, he said.
Polymerase chain reaction or antigen tests are mainly used for diagnosing whether the recipient is currently infected with the virus, but antibody tests show previous infections and the prevalence of antibodies against COVID-19, he added.
The program would help the government better understand the prevalence of the disease and possible transmission routes within the district, as well as the level of immunity in previously infected and vaccinated individuals, so that it can improve its policies for isolating sources of infection or easing disease prevention measures, Wang said.
Although vaccination can reduce the risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms and death, vaccination coverage in Taiwan is still not high enough, as herd immunity has still not been achieved in some nations with higher vaccination coverage, Chen said.
While vaccination and non-pharmaceutical interventions are being practiced quite well in Taiwan, expanded testing should also be implemented to understand the public’s immunity to COVID-19, and also to create a safer working environment as the government looks to boost the domestic economy, he said.
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