A nation-wide antibody surveillance programme for the public has been launched by the UK Health Security Agency to collect data to build the government’s understanding of immunity against Covid-19.
The government today announced that free home antibody tests kits will be offered to adults in the UK who test positive for the virus from Tuesday.
Anyone over 18 years old will have the chance to opt in to take part in the programme when booking a PCR test through the NHS Test and Trace system.
The government said up to 8,000 people out of those who opt in and get a positive PCR result, will then be sent two finger prick antibody tests which they can use at home before sending back to a lab for analysis.
The UK Health Security Agency plans to use the data collected to help estimate the proportion of people who got Covid-19 despite developing antibodies after either having a vaccine or previously catching the virus. They said the programme could also contribute to insight about any groups of people who do not develop an immune response.
Sajid Javid, the secretary of state for health and social care, 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.”
He added that the UK vaccination programme has already prevented “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.”
Dr Jenny Harries, the chief executive of the UK National Health Security Agency said antibody testing was being rolled out across the UK “to gain vital data into the impact of our vaccination programme and on immune responses to different variants of Covid-19.”
“The best way to protect yourself and those around you is by getting vaccinated,” she added, “I encourage anyone who has not yet come forward to book their first and second jabs.”
Commenting on the UK’s testing progress, Dr Susan Hopkins, the Covid-19 strategic response director of Public Health England, said: “Our testing armoury is stronger than ever now we are rolling out antibody testing to thousands of people in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland alongside the vast testing capacity we have built including our NHS Test and Trace system.