Whilst millions of us are desperate for a break from the monotony of the “new normal”, the eye watering cost of PCR tests for a family is putting the brakes on hopes of freedom.
But hope might be on the horizon if travellers visit certain countries which are not only following the science but applying it properly with immunity testing.
Destinations from Austria to Romania are already accepting evidence of active immunity from spike antibodies as an alternative to vaccination, which should give travellers – even those who have been double-vaccinated – greater peace of mind.
Our company, Bio-Diagnostics Ltd, a Worcestershire-based specialist immunology firm, is one of a handful of companies in the UK which makes these antibody tests. Using 40 years of testing experience, Bio-Diagnostics has created a unique immunity test for Covid-19, using its BioCard platform.
It’s the only test that detects Covid-specific antibodies – rather than others that detect all coronaviruses, such as the common cold.
Crucially, the test detects when vaccines have worked sufficiently well to produce, and then maintain, long-term spike antibodies. Due to some complex science, the test also confirms the existence of memory T-cells when results are found to be positive.
By directly detecting immunity, which includes antibodies from past infection, the Covid-19 BioCard can provide alternative evidence to being “fully vaccinated”, so those unable to have the vaccine can still travel freely.
This is how the BioCard works. You order one of the tests from Bio-Diagnostics UK for as little as £35 per test, with special access given to the service for NHS and key workers, and discounted group packs available. The sample is then returned to our laboratories for testing and we send you back the results.
From the hundreds of tests we have conducted, we now know that the level of immunity drops quickly from vaccination alone and some people still get infected and transmit the virus themselves.
This is why being able to provide evidence that long-term immunity remains active at an adequate level is the only way to be sure a vaccine actually worked.
The Bio-Diagnostics’ test enables travellers to avoid the unnecessary high cost of a PCR, which can add thousands of pounds to the cost of a holiday. Best of all, positive results can come from past natural exposure without vaccination or boosters… and one result can be valid for months.
Natural exposure to the virus results in much more stable immunity than we are seeing from vaccination alone. You wouldn’t test for an active infection if you knew that you had chicken pox. It would be a waste of time given that only a tiny fraction of people get a repeat infection.
However, for Covid-19, health authorities need to understand the level of spike antibodies required to block the infection from taking hold – and then apply that science to the travel industry.
A recent government study confirmed that 88 per cent of people block symptomatic infection from the Delta variant if they had the Pfizer vaccine, which is only 2 per cent lower than the official clinical trial.
Compare that to AstraZeneca, where we see significantly lower efficacy against the Delta variant at 67 per cent. They both generate the same spike antibodies if successful, although the discrepancy between the levels they result in is significantly different on average.
Recent weeks have seen reports of “fully vaccinated” people succumbing to the disease. Onward transmission has been found in people who might have expected better results from both jabs.
Tragically, back in March 2020, the UK government made the fatal error of not implementing a mass immunity test programme. Not only could such a programme have identified all the many millions able to return to work immediately, it would also have pinpointed all those who did not need the vaccine due to acquired immunity – and therefore would have avoided the wastage of some 25 per cent of the UK’s precious stock of vaccines.
On 20 August 2021 the government finally saw sense and ordered a UK-wide antibody surveillance programme – albeit for just 8,000 people a day.
There is no doubt the key to ending the pandemic will be the ongoing testing and monitoring of those whose vaccine response has been weak, and then to boost it without delay.
When we increase and maintain the level of antibodies more widely, true immunisations will occur much more frequently, and then the pandemic will wane faster than the spike antibodies.
In the meantime, travellers and families needing to prove their immunity will still be required to endure ten days in isolation in quarantine hotels – when all that is needed is a single, low-cost “proof of immunity” test a week before travel. And all that is needed to enjoy a break and return from holiday in complete safety. Why all the fuss?
The author is an immunologist and managing director of Bio-Diagnostics, the Worcestershire-based specialist testing company.