WHO: Pass on Immunity Passports for Now

Passengers walk at Daxing International Airport in Beijing, China. April 26, 2020. Image: Du Yang/China News Service/Getty
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Passengers walk at Daxing International Airport in Beijing, China. April 26, 2020. Image: Du Yang/China News Service/Getty

Hold off on issuing immunity passports, the WHO advised governments on Friday.

It hasn’t been proven that a successful recovery from COVID-19 means you’re protected from a second infection, WHO said in a scientific brief. So, immunity passports for travel or return to work shouldn’t be issued until evidence demonstrates their validity.

Chile had announced last week it would issue COVID-19 immunity cards, allowing bearers to breeze through airport security, according to NPR. France, the UK and others have floated similar ideas.

A couple reasons why WHO may have paused the passports idea:

  • Korean health officials have said 2% of recovered patients had to return to isolation after testing positive.

  • Wuhan authorities, meanwhile, have found that among patients from several quarantine facilities 5-10% of those who “recovered” later tested positive. 

WHO also notes current antibody tests need more evaluation before they can be relied upon. One challenge: Distinguishing past SARS-CoV-2 infections from those of other coronaviruses, including 4 that cause the common cold.

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