Since the coronavirus pandemic was declared back in March, one of the most highly debated topics has been the idea of immunity passports. The idea is that people who have tested positive for Covid-19 antibodies (indicating that they’ve previously been infected) could get a certificate enabling them to travel or return to work.
Now, virologist Professor Wendy Barclay from Imperial College London has warned that immunity passports are ‘not a good idea.’ Professor Barclay explained that the length of immunity varies hugely among coronavirus patients, meaning immunity passports may not be safe. Speaking to Times Radio she said: “This concept of a passport for immunity - at the moment it is not a good idea because individuals can vary quite a lot in the sort of quality of the antibody response they make.
"We wouldn't like people to go out and change their behaviour thinking they were protected when they are not.” Professor Barclay is one of the authors of a new study which found that people’s immunity build-up after Covid-19 could only last a few months. She said: “This new coronavirus seems to be behaving in a somewhat similar fashion to the seasonal coronaviruses that have been in humans for decades, if not hundreds of thousands of years.
"And for them we know that you do get reinfected every one or two years because your immunity, whether it's made up of antibodies or T-cells, fades away to such an extent that you can become reinfected.” Professor Barclay added that if immunity passports were introduced, those holding them may have to be retested every month.
"What's more, the study we've published shows that if you had to test one month, then you might need to be taking the test the next month or the month after because your antibody levels might change over time,” she said.