NewsCoronavirus

Actions

Experts advise against immunity passports

Posted at 4:57 PM, Dec 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-09 16:57:45-05

When traveling to many places, it’s required to quarantine or get tested for COVID-19 before and after you arrive.

Starting Thursday, Iceland is going to let visitors skip all of that if they prove they've had COVID-19 and recovered. But for now, travel from the U.S. to the country still isn't allowed.

So, are these so-called immunity passports a good idea?

Dr. Ania Wajnberg at Mount Sinai has been studying COVID-19 antibodies since March. Her team has tested more than 80,000 people in the New York area, and they’ve found the majority of people who had COVID-19 form moderate or high levels of antibodies.

“Since March and April, almost everybody has maintained their level of antibodies. We do see a slight decrease, but overall, they've maintained their antibody levels,” said Wajnberg.

But it's not entirely clear how long immunity does last and how good the protection against COVID-19 is.

Wajnberg says we also don't have a lot of data on whether people who have antibodies could still possibly carry enough of the virus that they could spread it.

The World Health Organization has advised against immunity passports. It says there's not enough evidence of immunity from antibodies alone.

“I think given that we know that many or most people likely have some protection, this is not an unreasonable way to begin to open up society in a safer way than just throwing open the doors and hoping for the best,” said Wajnberg.

Iceland's chief epidemiologist says he doesn't think it's fair to people who've had COVID-19, that they shouldn't be allowed to travel freely afterward.

Critics of immunity passports warn they could potentially reward reckless people who become infected after ignoring COVID-19 rules or take away more of our medical privacy.

Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering