Members of the Texas Air National Guard Medical Group 136 test for coronavirus at the Memorial Park Pool on May 12, 2020.
. – Some governments are considering using a blood test to determine if people can return to work, schools, and other public activities during the coronavirus pandemic.
Lack of certain antibodies would mean that you do not have an “immunity passport” and, therefore, the general public was not allowed to venture. Those who have them would receive certificates so that they can roam and restart economies, so that the vulnerable can stay at home.
But the World Health Organization and other experts say it is a terrible idea.
“[Hay] So many flaws that it’s hard to know where to start, ”said molecular biologist Natalie Kofler, founder of the global Editing Nature initiative, and Canadian bioethics Françoise Baylis, in a comment published in the journal Nature.
They listed the reasons why they think it is unfeasible and unfair:
There are many unknowns – To begin with, they wrote, it is unclear whether people develop some form of lasting immunity after a coronavirus infection. The World Health Organization has warned governments against issuing immunity passports, saying there is no evidence that people who have recovered from covid-19 are protected from a second coronavirus infection.
Evidence cannot be trusted – Then there is the fact that, although antibody tests are crucial in determining previous exposure to the new coronavirus, not all available antibody tests are reliable. Some antibody tests had high false-positive rates in evaluations conducted by a consortium of California laboratories. A false positive means that you would tell someone who had previously been exposed to covid-19 when they had not.
They are also not available to everyone – There is not enough evidence for everyone who needs it. In the United States, more than 1.5 million people have tested positive for coronavirus. The current calculation is almost certainly an insufficient count, said Dr. Peter Hotez, a professor at Baylor College of Medicine.
Not enough survivors – If only survivors of the new coronavirus are allowed to contribute to the economy, there will not be enough manpower to keep it active. “The low prevalence of the disease combined with limited testing capacity, not to mention unreliable testing, means that only a small fraction of any population would be certified free to work,” the specialists wrote.
Privacy is a concern – There is also the problem of privacy. Ethically, they argued, monitoring erodes privacy.
So is marginalization – Monitoring people to see who is immune would affect already marginalized groups. We have already seen this during this pandemic when more blacks and Hispanics were arrested for violating physical separation laws in New York. “With increased monitoring comes increased vigilance, and with it increased risk of profiling and potential harm to racial, sexual, religious or other minority groups,” they wrote.
Hispanics and blacks, more hit by the covid-19 5:01
And the labels too – This will create even more divisions. Labeling people based on their covid-19 status would create a new measure to divide “those who have” from “those who do not have” coronaviruses, they added.
There will be more discrimination – New forms of discrimination could emerge, as any program to certify immunity could be expanded to include other forms of personal health data. “Today’s immunity passports could become tomorrow’s biological passports,” they warned.
Intentional infections – Finally, immunity passports could encourage people to become infected on purpose. “If access to certain social and economic freedoms is granted only to people who have recovered from covid-19, then immunity passports could incentivize healthy and non-immune people to seek infection voluntarily, putting themselves already others at risk ”,
Better approaches include identifying and properly tracking infected people and their contacts, and developing a vaccine, Kofler and Baylis argued.
– Vasco Cotovio from CNN, Sarah Dean, Susanne Gargiulo, David Culver and Nectar Gan contributed to this report.