The idea is being discussed as the world waits to return to normal.
Keeping records of one’s immunizations and medical care is not new; we routinely show proof that we have been vaccinated against common diseases from chickenpox to polio. This idea of an immunity certificate or passport is being discussed in the United Kingdom and has been floated in some other countries as well, though not seriously in the United States yet.
Essentially, the idea is that if people can prove they have recovered from the virus, they will be issued a certificate allowing them to go back to normal activity, work, etc. The idea also poses plenty of challenges regarding testing for the virus and antibodies, not to mention that political, social, and legality issues also come up. There's potential to create a very exclusionary situation and a lot of unrest with only those deemed as immune able to enjoy basic freedoms and return to normal activity, that others would be prohibited from.
The United Kingdom
- UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock, himself recovering from COVID-19, said last week that the possibility of an immunity certificate was being looked at, including the idea of it being worn as a wristband.
- In the UK, millions of antibody tests have been ordered; however, so far, they have been ineffective.
- All speculation right now, there's not enough known about how immunity to the disease works.
- Working on home test kits, with the idea of then issuing immunity certificates to those who test positive for COVID-19 antibodies.
- A large study is being prepared and once the project is approved the study will test the blood of over 100,000 subjects for antibodies against strains of the virus seen in April.
- This will lead to the development of more effective testing, along with the possibility of issuing those people immunity cards allowing them to be exempt from restrictions placed on the rest of the population.
- Color-coded QR codes have been used in parts of the Hubei province, excluding Wuhan.
- Residents were required to download the QR codes, which come in red, yellow, and green.
- Codes are assigned based on the provincial epidemic control database; those who have no record in the database are green, those who have been diagnosed are red, and those in contact with someone diagnosed are yellow.
- Those with the green code are deemed safe enough to travel and may soon be able to leave their cities and the province for the first time in over two months.
- App-based GPS system to make sure self-quarantined people stay home.
As of right now, researchers believe there may be a period of immunity to reinfection, though that's likely only for a short amount of time. Some antibody testing has been done on the new coronavirus, however, far more research needs to be done before we can officially say someone is immune, and then use those antibodies to treat others.
Robert Dingwall, Professor of Sociology, Nottingham Trent University, said this regarding the concept of an immunity passport:
"...there is considerable scientific uncertainty about who will develop immunity and how long that will last for. The duration of protection can only be established with the passage of time. People being declared well today will have to be tracked for several months and up to a year before we have definite answers. If immunity only lasts for a few months, then testing will have to be repeated constantly: the certificate will really only establish a person’s status on a particular day."
Though the concept of an immunity passport certainly has appeal, as people across the world are desperate to regain financial security, job stability, and healthcare access, in reality, it's not as easy as it sounds. It does seem like an idea that has a lot of support worldwide and might be something we see implemented in the future.
What do you think about an immunity passport? Is it something you would want to see implemented here in the United States? We want to hear from you, so share your ideas with us in the comments.