Coronavirus 'immunity passport' idea gaining interest during pandemic

Could an “immunity passport” let you or someone with coronavirus antibodies return to work or even travel again? It’s an idea that’s gaining interest as a possible way out of our economic shutdown.

But here in the nation's capital, the World Health Organization is saying "go slow."

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The idea is enticing. Issuing so-called "immunity passports," or certificates to people with antibodies against COVID-19, would allow them to go back to their jobs or fly to other countries.

WHO officials say an "immunity passport" would assume antibodies mean immunity -- and only four months into this pandemic, there’s no science to support that. 

"There are some countries that are considering the use of a passport or certificate which would indicate that someone had been infected with COVID-19 and has developed some immunity. We're not able to say that an antibody response means that somebody is immune. Now, saying that there's ‘no evidence’ doesn't mean that there's no immunity. It just means that these studies haven’t been done yet," Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove a WHO epidemiologist told FOX 5 on Tuesday.

Dr. Van Kerkhove says researchers know a person develops an antibody response after becoming infected with COVID-19. What scientists don’t know is if an antibody response means someone is immune to the virus.

Meanwhile, the Trump Administration is facing blowback on its plan to send all 50 states only enough tests to screen at least 2 percent of the population each month.

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Virginia Senator Mark Warner, who is a member of the president’s re-opening advisory council, says it’s not enough. 

"The key to reopening this economy is testing. Testing! Testing! And I completely disagree with the White House that this ought to be forced down to the states and localities. A state can’t create a supply chain of an adequate number of tests," said Sen. Warner.

The WHO has now issued a scientific commentary on “immunity passports” warning people who assume they’re immune to a second infection because they received a positive test result may ignore health advice like social distancing. The WHO warns "immunity passports" could increase the risks of continued transmission.