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Popularity of antibody tests falls in Finland

People’s enthusiasm for coronavirus antibody checks has dwindled as access to public swab tests has improved.

Kuvassa otetaan verinäytettä.
It takes several weeks after contracting coronavirus for the body to produce the antibodies tests can detect. Image: Yoan Valat / EPA

Thousands of people in Finland have taken coronavirus antibody tests. Some employers have even offered it to all of their workers. Private clinics charge around 100 euros for the blood test, which public clinic doctors rarely order.

Private healthcare firm Terveystalo said around five percent of the some 4,000 tests it has performed have come back positive.

"There was a flurry of demand for the test when it came out in the spring, but interest has since dropped," Piia Aarnisalo, Terveystalo's laboratory diagnostics director said.

Mehiläinen, another private provider, said around four percent of its antibody samples had tested positive.

Kristiina Hotakainen of Mehiläinen said doctors have mainly ordered antibody tests for patients exhibiting prolonged and unexplained symptoms.

Is it worth it?

Public health institute THL has said people should not get the test out of curiosity, suggesting that relatively small sample sizes can throw off the accuracy of the test.

"But if you think you’ve been exposed, have had the symptoms and never got a swab test, you can go ahead and get it and most likely receive an accurate result," THL research director Arto Palmu said.

A negative antibody test won't, however, necessarily appease border officials. Travellers still need to provide proof of a recent negative test upon arrival in certain countries.

Vaccines for everyone

Nobody knows how long immunity lasts after someone has had Covid-19. A study by the THL and the City of Helsinki detected antibodies in people at least four months after they contracted the disease. The study will next examine antibody levels in people six to seven months after they had the virus.

At the moment it seems that people in Finland who have had the virus will also receive the Covid vaccine.

"In Finland there’s been no discussion of different recommendations for people who have had the virus. That’s probably because there’s no real certainty regarding immunity from a natural infection," Palmu explained.

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