Can I Get A Coronavirus Antibody Test? What You Need To Know

After a false start to home testing, Superdrug has launched an £89 in-store test conducted by nurses.

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They were heralded as “game-changers” and in March, we were told antibody tests would be with us “within days”. Four months later, the majority of people in the UK haven’t been anywhere near one.

Antibody tests – also called serology tests – are designed to check if a person has detectable antibodies in their blood, which would indicate they’ve already had Covid-19. The tests are different from those being used around the world to see if someone has the actual virus in their system.

The presence of antibodies in a person’s blood indicates that their immune system has cleared a virus. But in the case of Covid-19, we don’t know how long immunity from the virus lasts.

“There is no strong evidence yet to suggest that those who have had the virus develop long-lasting immunity which would prevent them from getting the virus again,” the government’s website now states.

However, private companies are pushing forwards with antibody tests. Pharmacies including Superdrug previously launched finger prick versions of the tests, but these were swiftly removed from shelves when questions were raised about their accuracy.

This week, Superdrug has launched a new version, becoming the first high-street retailer to offer an antibody testing service using a blood sample drawn from a patient by an in-store nurse.

Getty/HuffPost UK

So, what’s the point of antibody tests?

Originally, it was hoped antibody tests may help people get back to work without fear of infection. NHS workers, for example, could take the test to see if they’d already developed antibodies. There was also talk of “immunity passports” – however the World Health Organisation soon warned the accuracy of these tests couldn’t be guaranteed.

Because of this, the government is now taking a more cautious approach over the antibody tests. Instead, its website states there’s currently “no strong evidence” that a person cannot contract Covid-19 again.

“Therefore, the value of antibody tests is currently limited to answering the question of whether someone has had the virus or not, and providing data and a greater understanding on the spread of the virus,” the government website says.

A high percentage of the population is thought to have had Covid-19 without symptoms. Therefore antibody testing is not entirely pointless, as it’ll provide scientists with a higher volume of infection data to work with. On a personal level though, having a test won’t change your life much – you’ll still need to follow social distancing rules.

Who can get free antibody testing?

All NHS and care staff in England are being offered an antibody test. Some NHS patients and members of the public who participate in surveillance studies are also receiving the tests. These tests, approved by Public Health England, involve a healthcare practitioner taking blood from a vein, rather than a finger prick test. They’ve been shown as an accurate indicator of whether or not someone has had Covid-19, but again, they don’t show immunity.

A spokesperson said the roll-out of these tests will be expanded to other essential workers “in due course” to help scientists better understand how coronavirus is spreading across the country.

The government is also working to develop “scalable solutions” for at-home antibody testing, they added, saying: “An unreliable test is worse than no test.”

What’s happening with tests in pharmacies?

Superdrug made headlines as the first pharmacy offering at-home antibody tests conducted via a finger prick, when it began selling them for £69 on May 20. Other major pharmacies, including Lloyd’s Pharmacy, launched similar services. These tests instructed customers to take their own blood sample via a finger prick at home, then seal it and send it to a lab for testing.

However, just nine days after the first at-home test launched, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) asked providers of the finger prick antibody test to temporarily stop providing this service. The regulators said they needed to ensure the finger prick at-home tests could produce results as accurate as when blood is taken directly from a vein by a healthcare practitioner.

“People who have purchased one of these sampling kits, and received an antibody test result, should not consider the result to be reliable and should not take any action based on it,” Graeme Tunbridge, MHRA interim director of devices, said in a statement.

Pharmacies including Superdrug are currently working with the MHRA to “validate this claim and resume testing” via finger prick tests.

In the meantime, Superdrug has become the first high street store to offer antibody tests taken via a traditional blood test, in the same way NHS staff receive these tests. The service, which costs £89 and is conducted by qualified nurses, is available at 30 Superdrug Health Clinics, with a further 12 clinics due to open in the coming weeks. Patients need to pre-book an appointment by calling 03333111007 or visiting

Although antibodies don’t necessarily signal immunity, Superdrug is offering the test because some people “just want to know” if they’ve had Covid-19.

“Having antibodies does not mean that social distancing rules apply any differently to you, and it certainly doesn’t guarantee that you can’t transmit the virus to others,” says Superdrug’s health ambassador, Dr Zoe Williams. “Despite this many people ‘just want to know’ and are willing to pay to find out.”