Should you have a Covid-19 antibody test?

If Covid-19 antibody tests are done on a large scale, the results can give a good indication of a country’s infection rate. However, its use on an individual basis has limited benefit. Also, the Scheme will not necessarily pay for such a test. So, when should you consider having an antibody test, and what type should you have for it to be covered from your available benefits?

Let’s first look at the main Covid-19 tests and what they are used for.

First, there is the PCR (which stands for polymerise chain reaction; also called antigen) test, which is what most of the testing has been since the start of the pandemic. This is done with a swab, collecting a mucus sample from high up in your nose or the back of your throat. This test checks whether you currently have Covid-19.

Lately, antibody (also called serologic) tests have becoming available. This is usually done with a small amount of blood. This test checks whether you had Covid-19 sometime in the past. There are two basic types of antibody tests, and they are not covered in the same way:

  • A laboratory-based serology test, where a blood sample is taken and sent to a laboratory. Results are generally available within 24 to 48 hours. For out-of-hospital patients, the Scheme will cover the claim from available Everyday Services Benefits. For in-hospital patients who tested negative for the PCR test, but are suspected to have had Covid-19, the claim will be covered from the Overall Annual Limit.
  • A rapid serology test, where a finger-prick blood sample is taken at, for example, a pharmacy, and you only need to wait around 15 minutes for a result. At this stage there are still concerns about the accuracy of this test, with both false negative and false positive results being reported. The Scheme therefore does not cover rapid serology tests at this stage.

Should you have a rapid serology test anyway, at your own cost?

It may be tempting to have a rapid serology test, especially if you suspect that you may have had Covid-19 in the past. However, with the jury still out about the length of an immunity period, and with the possibility of false negative or false positive results, it may be advisable to wait before having such a test. Alternatively, if you do have a test and it shows a positive result, be careful not to base your lifestyle decisions (such as, for example, being less careful about wearing a mask or maintaining physical distancing) on the belief that you are immune.