Antibody testing coming to PA, but local hospitals caution hype

HARRISBURG – A big help getting out of the COVID-19 pandemic will be antibody testing…determining if people are immune or if they have already had COVID-19.


PA Secretary of Health, Dr. Rachel Levine, says the tests are being examined on several levels, “Our lab director is looking at those tests to see which one we might be able to get for our laboratory in Exton, and then hospitals and health systems will look at available tests, as well as commercial laboratories, about which antibody test would be best to do. Then we’re going to need to work out under what best conditions is needed for the testing.”


Locally, both Evangelical Community Hospital and Geisinger Medical Center continue to look at the test’s usefulness during and after a pandemic, as well as its accuracy.  Evangelical’s Associate Vice President of Clinical Operations, Angela Lahr, says antibody testing will more than likely come into play at some point.


“The usefulness of antibody testing in the midst of the pandemic remains to be seen. However, antibody testing will more than likely come into play as we look to understand who widespread the COVID-19 outbreak has been, and how long someone remains immune to it after being exposed,”  Dr. Lahr said.


Geisinger’s President and CEO, Dr. Jaewon Ryu adds that the accuracy and quality of antibody testing is not where it needs to be.  He says there are two things they are looking at to measure its accuracy: specificity and sensitivity, “You don’t want to miss things that are actually there, and at the same time, you don’t want to say things are there when they’re actually not. So those two measures of a tests’ accuracy with some of these antibody tests is really no more than a coin flip at this point.”


Experts are waiting for testing to mature, but are hopeful it can happen in the coming weeks.

About The Author