Immunity test cert key to normalcy

A neutralising antibody test could prove that the inoculated person has sufficient Covid-19 neutralising antibodies

by RAHIMI YUNUS / pic by BERNAMA

AN “IMMUNITY test certificate”, on top of a vaccine passport, may be essential as Covid-19 re-infection and transmission could still occur after vaccination amid issues on data security, vaccine inequity and ethics.

Immunitee CEO Datuk Dr Nick Boden said Covid-19 needs proof of protection due to its highly infectious nature and a number of mutations, unlike yellow fever, which relies on a paper certificate.

Additionally, he said a vaccine certificate on paper could lead to fraud and a challenge for validation.

“In terms of scientific proof of protection, we don’t feel on its own it’s a conclusive document (vaccine certificate) as there have been instances where those who have been vaccinated have failed to show the requisite antibodies, resulting in them being infected with the virus upon exposure.

“Of course, you need to have it to show you’ve been vaccinated, but some countries may provide paper certificates and the rest would be on apps that follow the new World Health Organisation (WHO) standards for digital vaccine certificates,” Dr Boden told The Malaysian Reserve in an interview.

In a United Nations news briefing in April, WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said the organisation would not like to see the vaccination passport as a requirement for entry or exit, emphasising the lack of vaccine access in many countries and the question of discrimination.

Dr Boden said Immunitee — a blockchain vaccine registry management system — pushes for another level of immunity proof called a neutralising antibody test after being fully vaccinated.

“We think this is where it’s going to go. We believe an immunity test certificate is needed in addition to a vaccine certificate.

“But blockchain requires validation of information, but you can’t validate paper results. Instead, you can validate laboratory tests,” he said.

Ultimately, he said neutralising antibody tests could be a key part of the ongoing Covid-19 vaccination strategy in the future to show whether additional “booster doses of vaccines” are needed to ensure adequate protection.

A neutralising antibody test post-vaccination could check if one’s body is producing neutralising antibodies in response to the vaccine or determine his or her immune system’s response to the Covid-19 infection post-recovery.

Simply put, a neutralising antibody test, which is taken from a blood sample, could prove that the inoculated person has sufficient Covid-19 neutralising antibodies.

Dr Boden said fake vaccines and vaccine passports are well-established issues that could worsen as irresponsible parties try to gain from the pandemic.

Authorities worldwide have warned its people against fake vaccines, vaccine passports and negative test papers that are being sold on the dark web which are much cheaper than the authentic vaccine.

Immunitee is actively onboarding laboratory groups in Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, South Africa, the UK and a few others for expansion.

He said the company targets the uptake of 5% of the Malaysian population conservatively in the first 18 months of the app’s launch.

He added that Immunitee is keen to work with the government to facilitate international travellers, such as those from the UK, coming to Malaysia and safely opening up the tourism industry.

On April 10, Immunitee had completed its first live passenger verification from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Singapore using a paperless and secure blockchain-based electronic Covid-19 swab test digital result.

The Singaporean passenger did his RT-PCR swab test at a Qualitas Medical Group Clinic. His results were electronically stored directly onto the blockchain, allowing his QR code in the Immunitee app to be successfully read and accepted upon landing in Singapore.