As the Covid-19 pandemic brought the world to a halt, everyone is eager to know when and how things will turn to normal. Amidst this conundrum, the concept of “immunity passports” opens a window of hope to avoid a long-term lock down.
The immunity passport or certificate would be given to patients who have fully recovered and hence are immune to Covid-19- enabling them to return to normal life and work. Efforts are underway in the U.K., Australia, and Germany to test and learn about this approach. Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), has also suggested the possibility of introducing an immunity document.
While governments around the world are exploring the idea to implement such initiatives, some health experts have raised a few concerns about this plan.
A lot still needs to be explored about this novel coronavirus. The duration of immunity for Covid-19 after someone has recovered from this deadly illness is still largely unknown. Typically, SARS patients – a disease caused by another form of coronavirus – don’t have a long-term immunity for the illness. Some coronaviruses that cause common colds can render a patient immune for only up to a few months.
Some experts also suggest a possibility of reinfection in recovered cases. However, they also add that reinfections would be mild and the acquired immunity would play a role to ensure protection.
Thus, immunity passports seem like a useful approach to help people get back to their jobs and keep the economy on an even keel. Meanwhile, it would also be important to keep a close watch on people who have been issued with immunity certificates to ensure they do not get reinfected.
Concerns have also been raised on the quality and efficacy of the antibody tests and whether the governments can implement these tests on a wider population. The health care systems around the world are already overwhelmed and conducting additional tests in the present scenario seems like a difficult task.
It is also unclear how the world will react to the concept of incentivising a certain group of population. The growing desperation caused by debt and lack of work can cause people to take extreme measures to get this immunity certificate.
Hence, until this concept gains much clarity, it is best to adhere to the current guidelines of social distancing and stay at home to arrest the spread of Covid-19.