Requests for antibody testing after COVID vaccination

Posted by: marcia - Posted on:

21 May 2021

We have had a few questions about antibody testing after COVID vaccination to check if someone has responded to the vaccine well.

If you are wondering about this, please read this post for the answer.  It would be really helpful if you didn’t ring the practice about it, because the answer will be the same.

This is an interesting question, but not a simple one! 

There is a research study going on at the moment which is looking at whether it might be useful to test antibody levels in people with suppressed immunity – the study hasn’t finished yet.

This is not something that is currently being offered or recommended because:

  • It is not being recommended in the current guidance, which is the guidance we follow.
  • Antibody tests only look at one part of the immune system (the B cell system).  There are other parts of the immune system that also provide protection but these aren’t tested by an antibody test (the T cell system).
  • There are different antibody tests.  Some will detect if a person has had COVID infection but will not detect antibodies from a vaccine.  Some tests look specifically at vaccine related antibodies.  As far as we are aware we only have access to testing antibodies from natural infection (and we only do these in very specific circumstances).
  • Antibody levels are difficult to interpret and often do not generally predict the degree of protection someone has.  Experts currently don’t know what would be a good antibody level.  Even if antibody levels are low, it does not mean that someone has low protection.
  • At the moment, even if antibody levels are low there is no guidance on what we would do with those results. There is so far no recommendation that another dose would be given.
  • Even if antibody levels were good, this would not mean that people should change their behaviour. They should still be following government guidance on social distancing etc.

So in summary, at the moment it is not something we are doing.

As with everything else about COVID, knowledge and guidance changes rapidly. We will update this post if the guidance changes.

We are aware that private testing for antibodies is available on the internet. Of course anyone who wishes can pay for one of these tests, but this is not something we are recommending you do and we would advise you to think carefully about it before you spend your money on this. We are sorry that, if you do get a private test, we will not be able to comment on the results; please don’t ask us to.