Mass free antibody tests will help pick who gets a booster vaccine in first ever UK-wide ‘surveillance programme’ to find who got Covid despite being jabbed
- Up to 8,000 adults in the UK who test positive will be offered the tests each day
- Programme will help estimate proportion who got Covid despite antibodies
- It will also provide insight into any groups who do not develop immune response
- UK recorded 32,058 new cases on Saturday – rise of over 10% in last seven days
Free Covid antibody tests will be given to thousands of people every day in a first-ever UK-wide ‘surveillance programme’ in the latest weapon against the virus.
Up to 8,000 adults who test positive will be offered the tests each day to reveal how their immune systems respond.
The massive programme begins this week and will help estimate the proportion of people who got Covid despite developing antibodies from a vaccine or a previous infection.
It will also provide doctors with an insight into any groups who do not develop an immune response in the first place.
Free Covid antibody tests will be given to thousands of people every day in a first-ever UK-wide ‘surveillance programme’ in the latest weapon against the virus (file photo)
But sources said the data would also feed into the debate about autumn booster jabs amid continuing doubts over who will get them.
The announcement came as Covid infections continued to rise yesterday, sparking fresh appeals for people to get vaccinated. The UK recorded 32,058 new cases – a rise of just over ten per cent in the last seven days.
In a joint announcement yesterday, Ministers announced that from Tuesday anyone over 18 will be able to opt into the antibody surveillance programme to boost understanding of immunity against Covid from vaccination and prior infection.
Under the scheme, launched by the UK Health Security Agency (HSA), up to 8,000 people who agree to take part and then receive a positive PCR test will be sent two finger-prick antibody tests over 28 days to take at home and send back for laboratory analysis.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘Our new national antibody testing will be quick and easy to take part in, and by doing so you’ll be helping strengthen our understanding of Covid-19 as we cautiously return to a more normal life.
‘I’m proud to see all parts of the UK uniting around this new initiative and working together to arm ourselves with even more valuable insights into how Covid-19 vaccines are protecting people.’
The announcement came as Covid infections continued to rise yesterday
Mr Javid added that the ‘phenomenal’ vaccination programme had already built a ‘massive wall of defence across the country’ by preventing about 24million infections and more than 100,000 deaths in England alone.
He said: ‘I urge everyone across the UK to get both vaccinations as soon as possible.’
Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the HSA, said: ‘We are rolling out antibody testing across the UK to gain vital data into the impact of our vaccination programme and on immune responses to different variants of Covid-19.’
People taking part in the programme must have their first test as soon as possible after a positive PCR result – before they have time to develop antibodies in response to the new infection.
The second test 28 days later will measure what level of antibodies they develop to fight the virus.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid (pictured during a visit to Milton Keynes Hospital on August 10) said the new national antibody testing will be ‘quick and easy to take part in’
Officials say that by comparing the two tests, the NHA will be able to see how well vaccinated individuals boost their immunity when infected and also how this might change with Covid variants.
But Department of Health sources also privately conceded that the data will feed into the debate about who gets a third booster jab later this year.
That comes amid conflicting reports about whether the over-50s would be included in the autumn third jab drive alongside older groups and people classed as most vulnerable.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation is awaiting results of research into the effectiveness of booster jabs as well mixing and matching different vaccines.
However, a well-placed Government source said it was still ‘likely’ that all over-50s would be offered the booster.