Written answers

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Photo of Peter FitzpatrickPeter Fitzpatrick (Louth, Independent)
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763. To ask the Minister for Health his plans to roll out antibody testing for persons that have recovered from Covid-19 with the aim of understanding if some of the population now have natural immunity;; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6427/20]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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The ECDC has advised that immunoassays detecting specific antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) will play an important role in the future for epidemiological surveillance, evaluation of immunity and the outcome of future vaccination studies. However, the reliability of serological tests remains a major issue as does the interpretation of what immunity means and how long it might last. These remain active research questions.

The ECDC have reported that over 60 rapid SARS-CoV-2 antibody tests have been CE marked to date, and many more continue to be placed on the market. Prior to the introduction new serological assays [antibody tests] clinical validation studies will be required to confirm that test performance can be replicated in the context in which the test is intended to be used.

Serological testing can be used to estimate the level of immunity in the general population. Estimation of population age-specific immunity or past exposure to SARS-CoV-2 is one of the actions in Ireland’s National Action Plan in response to COVID-19.

Following a request from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) the HSE and Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) are proceeding with plans to undertake a population sero-prevalence study. This work is being carried out jointly by HPSC and NVRL, in collaboration with the Central Statistics Office and Department of Health

I understand that it is intended that an application to the National COVID-19 Research Ethics Committee will be submitted shortly and that subject to ethics approval and completion of clinical  validation of a suitable assay (i.e. antibody test)  the aim is to start the seroprevalence study in the next 4 weeks.

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