WHO warns of “immunity passports” as countries seek to relax COVID-19 restrictions

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The World Health Organization (WHO) warns against the use of immunity passports for people who have recovered from COVID-19, saying that there is currently “no evidence” that those who have recovered from the virus and are immune to reinfection.

Countries around the world, including Canada, are taking interim measures to ease pandemic response. Some have raised the possibility of so-called immunity passports, which would give those tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies the ability to travel, return to work and have a more normal daily life.

Those who are not immunized would remain isolated until a vaccine is developed.

But according to the WHO, although studies have shown that people who have recovered from the infection have antibodies, no study has yet examined whether these antibodies immunize a person to reinfection.

Other studies suggest that, as some people have very low levels of antibodies, cellular immunity may also be critical for recovery.

“At this stage of the pandemic, there is not enough evidence of the effectiveness of antibody-mediated immunity to guarantee the accuracy of a” passport of immunity “,” said the WHO in a press release.

“People who assume they are immune to a second infection because they received a positive test result can ignore public health advice. The use of these certificates can therefore increase the risk of continuous transmission. “

Some countries are considering immunity passports

Chile announced this week that it is planning to issue immunity passports, allowing those receiving the certificates to exit quarantine.

Government officials have said that 4,600 people have recovered from the virus and will be eligible to receive passports, which would take the form of physical or digital cards, the Washington Post reported.

Germany, Italy and the UK also raised the idea of ​​passports. Meanwhile, just last week Anthony Fauci, a key member of the COVID-19 White House task force, told CNN that immunity passports could “have some merit in certain circumstances”.

But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Saturday that neither Ottawa nor the provinces were planning to reopen the country based on the idea that people would be immune to reinfection. Instead, the focus is on continuing to prevent the spread of the virus through physical removal from the workplace and other measures to protect Canadians.

He said it was “very clear” that there was not enough scientific evidence on immunity.

“We know this is something we need to get clearer answers for, and until we have those clear answers, we have to be careful,” said Trudeau.

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