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Finger-prick antibody tests offered for people who test positive for coronavirus

Thousands of adults in the UK who test positive for Covid will be able to have free antibody tests for first time through a new UK Health Security Agency (UHSA) surveillance programme.

The agency has announced the tests will be available from Tuesday to anyone aged over 18 when booking a PCR test through NHS Test and Trace.

Up to 8,000 people who opt in and receive a positive PCR result will be sent two finger prick antibody tests to complete at home and send back to a lab for analysis, as i revealed earlier this month.

The UK Health Security Agency said it will work alongside NHS Test and Trace testing services in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to monitor levels of antibodies in positive cases across the UK.

The data collected will help estimate the proportion of those who got Covid despite developing antibodies as a result of having a vaccine or previously catching coronavirus.

It is hoped the initiative could help it understand why some groups of people do not develop an immune response.

The UHSA plans to use the data to provide further insight into the effectiveness of the vaccines against different variants.

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care 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 up and down the UK.”

Chief executive of the UK National Health Security Agency Dr Jenny Harries 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.

 “Our phenomenal vaccination programme continues to build a massive wall of defence across the country – already preventing around 24 million infections and more than 100,000 deaths in England alone. I urge everyone across the UK to get both vaccinations as soon as possible.”

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has signed a two-year contract worth £124.4 million with blood test start-up Thriva to deliver home Covid antibody tests, i revealed earlier this month.

At the time the Government confirmed the scheme was designed to better “understand the science around immunity” as the country heads out of lockdown.

The contract is more than double the value of any other Government deal for antibody test kits to date, and the first to explicitly state the kits are to be taken at home.

Anyone taking part are instructed to take their first antibody test as soon as possible after receiving a positive PCR result before the body has had time to generate a detectable antibody response to the current infection.

The first test will determine the level of antibodies a person had before their current infection.

The second test should be taken 28 days after testing positive for Covid-19 and will measure antibodies generated in response to the infection. 

By comparing the two antibody test results, the UK Health Security Agency claims it will be able to see how well vaccinated individuals boost their immunity when they are infected and how this might vary with different variants.

UHSA says testing positive for antibodies does not mean someone is immune from Covid-19 and people must continue to follow the rules, get tested if they have symptoms and self-isolate.

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