Oklahoma Blood Institute brings back COVID-19 antibody testing for donors

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma Blood Institute is re-launching its free antibody testing program.

The OBI said anyone can get the free test if they donate a pint of blood. The institute said the test only detects antibodies from an infection, instead of antibodies from a vaccine.

“As we progress with the boosters, ‘one size fits all.’ This virus isn’t a ‘one size fits all,’” said Dr. Armitage, the OBI’s President and CEO.

Dr. John Armitage said the institute is trying to help Oklahomans make an informed decision about when to get a COVID-19 booster shot.

“My guess is that it will be a longer time between getting boosters if you’ve had the natural infection. It must makes sense. You’ve already sort of had a booster from having the infection. Why would you be on the same time schedule as somebody who’s not been infected?” he said.

The doctor said if you test positive for the OBI’s test, that means you’ve got an immunity protection you wouldn’t have gotten by just getting the vaccine.

“If you just get the vaccine, you’re only going to produce anti-spike antibodies. We test for anti-shell nucleocapsid bodies. So, the only way you’re going to get those is from a natural infection,” said the doctor.

Meaning if you test positive, you had COVID-19, but may not have known it. However, the severity of your infection impacts how detectible the antibodies will be.

“If you were asymptomatic, you barely noticed it. You probably didn’t have a raging immune response, because your body dealt with it quickly. If you were in the hospital for a little while, you probably have a pretty high robust system of antibodies,” said Armitage. “You can lose your antibodies over time but you don’t lose your immunity.”

KFOR’s Katelyn Ogle donated blood to see if she was recently infected. Her whole experienced lasted roughly 45 minutes. After health care workers asked her medical questions and took her vitals, it was time for the actual blood draw, which only took about 10 minutes. The OBI said Ogle should get an email with a link to her results in three days.

The last time the OBI performed these tests, 300,000 people answered the call. The OBI said 16% of donors had antibodies.

“National data that ended in May was starting to show a 20% positive rate, so I will be stunned if we’re not at a 25% just as more and more people get exposed,” said the doctor.

Dr. Armitage said this will also help the OBI determine if it’s time to start stocking up on convalescent plasma. The treatment was taken over by monoclonal antibodies and the doctor said the supplies are dwindling.

“If that goes down at the point where it’s not available, that’s not the case yet, but there are some worries there will be limits. So, we want to make sure we have enough convalescent plasma to back that up,” he said.

The OBI said it hopes to run this promotion for at least a few more months while supplies last.

It also said any blood donations will help beef up their low blood supply levels.

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