Myth or fact: does the presence of antibodies in someone’s system guarantee their immunity to COVID-19? It’s an appealing thought, but the answer is more complicated than one might think. To completely understand the answer to this question, we need to do a bit of deep-diving into what antibodies are, their role in COVID, and what this means for antibody immunity.
A Quick Biology Recap
You might remember learning about antibodies and immune systems while you were still in school and thinking, “will this knowledge ever benefit me as an adult?” With the insurgence of COVID-19 into our lives, knowing what antibodies and immune systems are and what they can do for us is incredibly useful. As the CDC explains, when we are infected with a virus or bacteria, our immune systems create antibodies to fight it. Furthermore, through vaccination, our bodies can learn to make antibodies.
Once our bodies have antibodies to a particular disease or virus, they provide some protection from that disease. If we get sick with the disease we were vaccinated against, the antibodies will prevent us from getting severely ill because our body now recognizes the disease and is prepared to fight against it. There are no guarantees these antibodies will last forever. The longevity of protection is different for every person.
This is the foundation of knowledge that will help us answer the question of if antibodies guarantee immunity to COVID-19.
Antibodies and COVID-19
If you have been vaccinated or have recovered from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, antibodies can be detected in your blood. However, just because you can develop antibodies that may protect you in the future from COVID does not mean vaccination is not helpful. Getting a vaccine is safer than getting COVID-19. Vaccination increases your body’s antibody response and improves your protection, according to the CDC, if you have already had COVID and have antibodies in your system.
As mentioned above, COVID-19 antibodies are expected to subside over time after a person’s infection, just like any other disease’s antibodies. For the first six months after recovery from COVID, patients will experience some amount of protection, though this varies from person to person. It is generally unknown how long these antibodies will last after infection.
On May 19, 2021, the FDA authorized that SARS-CoV-2 antibody tests should not be used to evaluate a person’s level of immunity from COVID-19 at any time, especially not after a COVID-19 vaccination. This was largely due to the lack of conclusive research regarding positive antibody tests in people who have received a COVID-19 vaccination. Additionally, people getting the test were using it as a cause to take fewer precautions against SARS-CoV-2 exposure. However, this does not mean that antibody tests are useless.
A positive antibody test result can be used to help identify someone who has had COVID before or has been vaccinated against COVID in the past. Antibody tests are not for diagnosing COVID. However, they are helpful if positive so that someone knows they can continue with their everyday life. Furthermore, antibody tests have been used to learn more about the level of antibodies needed to protect someone from COVID and how long the protection may last. As of August 2021, more than 80 antibody tests have been granted to scientists to study these antibody behaviors, which is called serology.
According to the CDC, “a positive antibody test result alone, especially one from an infection at an unknown time or that was determined by a viral test more than 6 months ago, does not necessarily mean that you are immune to getting COVID-19.”
So, Do Antibodies Guarantee Immunity?
The long and short answer is that antibodies do give some portion of immunity to COVID-19, but this is only after vaccination, after already having COVID, or both. Antibodies are only created after the presence of the virus or from being created after a vaccination.
If you or a loved one are worried you have contracted COVID-19, reach out to us at Mobile COVID Testing in Los Angeles. We can come to you with on-site COVID testing or visit us near the LAX airport if you plan to travel. Book an appointment with us today.