THE World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned against the use of immunity passports being considered by countries to be issued to people who have recovered from Coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
With the global death toll from the Coronavirus pandemic beyond the 200,000 mark on Sunday, the global health body said the move by some countries to re-open their economies by granting “immunity passports” to recovered COVID-19 patients was unscientific.
In a scientific briefing note, the WHO warned that there was currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies were protected from a second infection.
It further warned that the passports could pose a health risk by providing unjustified assurances of protection to individuals and their communities.
“At this point in the pandemic, there is not enough evidence about the effectiveness of antibody-mediated immunity to guarantee the accuracy of an ‘immunity passport’ or ‘risk-free certificate.
“People who assume that they are immune to a second infection because they have received a positive test result may ignore public health advice. The use of such certificates may, therefore, increase the risks of continued transmission,” WHO said in the note.
Several countries have suggested a gradual return to work, as restrictions imposed on movement to curb the spread of the virus have crippled economies around the world.
Chile has also announced plans to give “health passports” to patients who have recovered from COVID-19 if checked for the presence of antibodies, they would be allowed to go back to work, officials stated.
Tarik Jaserevic, WHO spokesperson in an interview said the idea of granting an immunity status was unscientific.
“We understand the intention of trying to see who can go safely back to work or who could be eventually risk-free of infecting other people but, unfortunately, from a scientific point of view, we simply don’t know if a person who has been infected by the Coronavirus gets this immunity, and if a person gets this immunity, how long it’s lasting,” he said.
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 infections across the world rose to 2.86 million and deaths rose beyond the 200,000 mark which has doubled since April 10.
Europe is the hardest-hit region recording 122,171 Coronavirus deaths, while the US toll rose by 2,494 over the past 24 hours to hit 53,511 deaths.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States also rebounded by nearly 46,000 to 936,293 since Friday.
In Italy, the number of COVID-19 fatalities rose to 26,384, Spain 22,902, France 22,614 and the United Kingdom 20,319.
The world is on tenterhooks as companies and governments are racing to develop treatments and, eventually, a vaccine for the virus, which first surfaced in China in late 2019.
Amos Abba is a journalist with the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, who believes that courageous investigative reporting is the key to social justice and accountability in the society.