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May 4, 2020

What is a Covid Immunity Pass?

Closing nonessential businesses and encouraging people to stay home have proven themselves effective ways to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Unfortunately, it's also slowed the world's economy to a crawl, causing many people to experience layoffs or lose their jobs altogether. In many places, what we hoped would be a temporary situation has dragged on for weeks or months, and isolated people want to resume life and business as usual. Many have floated the idea of COVID-19 immunity passes as a way to do that. Though not a reality yet, we're hopeful that immunity passes become possible in the near future.

Relevant Virus Facts

To understand the theory behind an immunity pass, you first need a basic understanding of how your immune system fights viruses. When humans contract a virus, their immune system kicks into gear and sets about fighting it off.

In order to fight a virus as effectively as possible, the body sends out cells to interact with the virus called B cells. These cells "study" the virus and learn how to stop it. Once the body understands the virus, it creates antibodies. Antibodies are proteins that attack the virus themselves or attach to the virus to signal other parts of the immune system to attack it.

This process occurs every time your body encounters a new virus or bacteria. Your body studies the virus and then creates the antibodies you need to get rid of it. After destroying the virus, your body keeps these antibodies like reference books in a library. If it ever encounters the same virus again, your immune system can act much more quickly to eliminate the threat. This is because it can start producing more antibodies immediately rather than having to stop and study the virus again.

Antibodies and Immunity

Sometimes the body's immune response to a virus is so strong and effective that the body keeps a record of it in its antibody library forever. Take chickenpox, for example. Once you've gotten chickenpox, you can't get it again. This is because your body keeps a few chickenpox antibodies on hand at all times and pounces on the disease as soon as it tries to enter the body a second time.

The body can and should do the same thing with the COVID-19 virus. This virus is new, so you're body hasn't seen it before. If you get the virus, however, your body will study it and develop the necessary antibodies to hopefully defeat it.

These antibodies will, hopefully, hang around even after the virus is gone. As such, a doctor can test your blood to see if it contains antibodies for COVID-19. If it does, it means you've had the disease already and should be able to successfully use those antibodies to fight off any future COVID-19 infection.

The COVID-19 Immunity Pass

This all leads us to the idea of COVID-19 immunity passes. The theory is that we can test people for COVID-19 antibodies. Those that have them are likely immune to COVID-19, just like people who have had chickenpox are immune to it. Those who are now immune to COVID-19 thanks to these antibodies could perhaps get a pass that proves they've undergone testing and have COVID-19 antibodies. This immunity pass would allow them to travel, work and resume life as usual since they shouldn't be able to get the virus again.

For now, the best way we can help ourselves and each other is to stay home when we can, practice social distancing in public and wear a mask when we expect to encounter others. If you think you're ill, ask your doctor to order a COVID-19 virus test. Antibody testing is also available and we're happy to offer this service.

Although antibody testing is available, immunity passes are still only an idea. We hope that the idea of immunity passes becomes a reality soon and can help American life safely get back to normal.

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