The presence of antibodies doesn’t rule out need for COVID-19 vaccine

Aug 11, 2021, 1:48 PM
antibodies vaccine...
This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the spherical particles of the coronavirus behind COVID-19, colorized blue, from the first U.S. case of COVID-19. Antibody blood tests for the coronavirus could play a key role in deciding whether millions of Americans can safely return to work and school. But public health officials warn that the current “Wild West” of unregulated tests is creating confusion that could ultimately slow the path to recovery. (Hannah A. Bullock, Azaibi Tamin/CDC via AP)
(Hannah A. Bullock, Azaibi Tamin/CDC via AP)

SALT LAKE CITY — Antibody testing in people who’ve had COVID-19 has become almost as common as COVID-19 testing itself. But doctors warn that COVID-19 antibodies shouldn’t determine whether or not to get the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Han Kim, a public health professor at Westminster College, said all that antibodies prove is that your immune system responded to a virus it came into contact with.

RELATED: Large antibody study offers hope for virus vaccine efforts

“We don’t even know what level of antibodies are required to fight off COVID,” Kim said, “so, getting an [antibody] test won’t tell you if your immune system will prevent you from getting sick.”

Nicholas Rupp, communications director at the Salt Lake County Department of Health, echoed those sentiments.  “The FDA and the CDC are very clear.  A positive result from an antibody test does not mean you have a specific amount of protection from infection.”

Kim said he doen’t advise people to get antibody testing for the same reasons.  “How many antibodies you need or at what level just isn’t known, yet.  So when people ask me if they should be tested to make sure the vaccine took, or if they are protected from a past infection, I’m reluctant to say ‘yes’.”

RELATED: Utah COVID-19 treatment study is in need of more volunteers

Both Rupp and Kim said antibody testing is best used by researchers trying to determine the overall effectiveness of a vaccine in the general populace.  Or, how the human immune system responds when exposed to the virus.  But they both agreed that individuals should not use these tests to determine if they are protected from COVID-19.

Vaccination and breakthrough cases

Rupp said it’s very important that everyone is vaccinated, even if there’s still a risk of breakthrough infection. A breakthrough infection occurs when someone is fully vaccinated and still test positive for COVID-19.

“The reason some people get sick (after being vaccinated) is that their immune response is not as robust as someone else’s. So they’re more susceptible to infection.”

However, Rupp admitted that the effects of the illness are likely to be lessened in a breakthrough case.

Breakthrough cases and yearly vaccines

Some illnesses like measles only require a one-time inoculation, Kim said, as opposed to the flu which requires yearly vaccines.  

He said how well a virus mutates, or changes is the key.  “Measles doesn’t replicate well, so it doesn’t change.  Whereas influenza is a master at mutating,” said Kim.

SARS, another type of coronavirus, was extremely deadly.  “But it’s a bad virus,” Kim said, “because it killed its hosts faster than it could mutate, so we didn’t have a worldwide spread.”

Kim placed COVID-19 somewhere between the measles and the flu in terms of how well it changes.  This is why health care officials will most likely recommend yearly vaccinations.

“If there were no variants, if the genetic code never changed, we wouldn’t need annual vaccines,” Kim said.

How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirus spreads person to person, similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Wear a mask to protect yourself and others per CDC recommendations.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet).
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities).
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A 

Utah’s Coronavirus Information 

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States


We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

West Valley Police received a call from family members of a suicidal individual leaving their home,...
Waverly Golden

Individual in custody after firing shots from his vehicle

West Valley Police received a call from family members of a suicidal individual leaving their home, the individual was safely taken into custody.
20 hours ago
A bill that could make its way to the Utah legislature in the 2023 session would require school dis...
Lindsay Aerts

New state flag referendum group ‘confident’ despite low signature numbers

SALT LAKE CITY — The group working to repeal Utah’s new state flag says they’re confident they’ll gather enough signatures to get the issue on the ballot, despite having turned in less than 1% of the required signatures as of Friday. As of midday, the group had 502 approved signatures. They need 134,298 by April […]
20 hours ago
the new utah state flag design is pictured...
Waverly Golden

Not everyone is a fan of Utah’s new state flag

A group is working to repeal Utah's new state flag, saying they already have 502 signatures approved towards getting the issue on the ballot. 
20 hours ago
On the latest KSL Greenhouse show, Taun and Maria gave tips on what you can do if you're seeing sno...
Michelle Lee

What you can do about snow mold in your lawn

SALT LAKE CITY – Snow is starting to melt in some areas, which means you might be seeing some snow mold on your lawn. Although there isn’t much you can do to prevent that from happening, Taun and Maria gave some tips on the latest KSL Greenhouse show. How can you tell if there’s snow […]
20 hours ago
buy-back guns...
Adam Small

Got unwanted guns? Salt Lake Police say bring them to buy-back event

For the second year in a row, the Salt Lake City Police Department will host a guns buy-back event at the Public Safety Building located at 475 South 300 East.
20 hours ago
Utah's unemployment rate remains one of the lowest nationally, according to the Salt Lake Chamber's...
Waverly Golden

Utah’s unemployment rate remains one of the lowest nationally

Utah's unemployment rate remains one of the lowest nationally, according to the Salt Lake Chamber's Roadmap to Prosperity Dashboard.
20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Cheerful young woman writing an assignment while sitting at desk between two classmates during clas...
BYU EMBA at the Marriott School of Business

Hear it Firsthand: 6 Students Share Their Executive MBA Experience at BYU’s Marriott School of Business

The Executive MBA program at BYU offers great opportunities. Hear experiences straight from students enrolled in the program.
Skier being towed by a rider on a horse. Skijoring....
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking for a new winter activity? Try skijoring in Bear Lake

Skijoring is when someone on skis is pulled by a horse, dog, animal, or motor vehicle. The driver leads the skiers through an obstacle course over jumps, hoops, and gates.
Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five common causes of Cervical Cancer – and what you can do to lower your risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get ready for fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy.
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...

15 easy Christmas dinner ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
The presence of antibodies doesn’t rule out need for COVID-19 vaccine