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Why should you get the blood draw antibody test over the finger prick?

It’s 8 a.m. on a Thursday morning. Covenant Health system is just getting their COVID antibody testing site set up for the day on the corner of 98th and slide. Back in January I got sick with a mystery illness. According to tests it wasn’t strep throat. It wasn’t the flu. Whatever it was it hit me hard for a week. I’m curious if I had the coronavirus.

At a tent perched up beside the medical van, nurses collect my insurance information and screen me for the virus by quickly taking my temperature and asking a series of questions.

She records the information on a tablet. Once she finishes, I have to verbally agree to getting my blood drawn to see if the IgG antibody is in my system—exchanging pens, and tapping screens is taboo in COVID’s world.

“IgG is that antibody that stays with you longer term and typically provides immunity to a virus,” says Dr. Michael Roberts from Covenant Health. This particular antibody test that I’m getting right now is the most accurate on the market. He says they made sure of that. But It’s not the only one out there. He wants to make sure people know which test they’re getting.

“The ones that involve just a finger stick that are being done locally in the community have been shown to be not very accurate,” he says. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration issued a challenge to them. They were instructed to submit data showing these tests were indeed accurate or pull their test from the market, Roberts says. Some of the earlier tests he saw were only about 30 percent accurate, which concerns him.

“You don’t want people to have a false sense of security by thinking they have antibodies when in reality, they don’t,” he says.

I’m curious to know if I’ve got those antibodies. I step into the van and am greeted by a masked man, Emilio Mendoza. There’s a large dentist chair in the middle of the floor. He tells me they had inherited the dental van right before COVID hit. They just haven’t had a chance to convert it. It’s not the most ideal for drawing blood, but it works for now.

I want the test for sense of security, regardless of the outcome. If I had it, I may have spread it without knowing. But on the other hand, if I may have defense against getting it again, but that’s uncertain. “Again we don’t know yet if positive antibodies to COVID-19 that the person is immune, but it does mean that they’ve had that virus, that their body has been exposed to it and made an antibody response,” Roberston says.

All in all, it takes 13 minutes from start to finish to find out if that mysterious illness was in fact COVID-19. Turns out, it wasn’t.

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