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More COVID-19 antibody testing available, but doctors say not everyone should get it

(Credit: KSL TV)

SALT LAKE COUNTY – There are more places where Utahns can get a COVID-19 antibody test. Four Utah cities are offering antibody testing, but some health care officials say they don’t want everyone rushing out to get it done. 

The logistics of antibody testing 

At the end of every drug commercial, a voice recommends, “Ask your doctor if (medicine X) is right for you.” 

Intermountain Healthcare Infectious Diseases Doctor, Eddie Stenehjem, states the same advice applies for antibody testing. He’s not necessarily discouraging people from getting it done but advises people to consult their doctor first.

“It really should be a discussion with your primary care doc to have them counsel you on what this test means and what it doesn’t mean,” advised Stenehjem. 

For instance, Stenehjem says if you get a positive antibody test for COVID-19, that doesn’t mean you’re immune from getting sick, again. 

Additionally, it doesn’t mean you can forgo wearing a mask or practicing social distancing. 

“The result of the test should not, by any means, indicate how you should interact with your community,” Stenehjem said.

The accuracy of antibody testing 

Furthermore, not all tests are created equally. 

Stenehjem notes exams that use blood gathered from a finger stick don’t seem to be as accurate as those that use samples from a more traditional blood draw. 

The quicker finger-prick tests reportedly have a higher rate of false-positive results.  Stenehjem believes many of the testing platforms are too new to have a complete picture of which test works the best.

“We just don’t have a whole lot of information in terms of what true prevalence is in our community to really assess how well these tests perform,” said Stenehjem. 

Despite questions over the accuracy of certain exams, the interest is still high.

“We’re definitely getting calls, whether it be from urgent care or emergency departments, requesting this test,” Stenehjem confirmed.

“We’ve been referring those patients to their primary care docs to have those discussions.” 

The tests being offered in Draper, Riverton, Bluffdale and Vineyard. Antibody testing was set up by city governments and not through the Utah Department of Health. 

State health officials state they’d like to partner with the cities to collect the results being gathered. However, the partnership has yet to be set up. 

Lastly, state officials insist on investigating every antibody result, even the false ones.

 

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