The Alberta government is shelling out $10 million to be the first province to start serology testing. Health Minister Tyler Shandro says the tests are different than the current swabs, as they can tell if someone has had COVID-19.
“We know that there are people who have been infected and were never tested, many of them simply because they never got sick,” he explains. “[Serology testing] detects the antibodies in a person’s blood, which can show us if they have been exposed to COVID-19 in the past.”
The results would help the province better figure out how the virus spreads and how to best contain it. Shandro notes that the serology testing won’t replace the current tests, as they don’t indicate whether a patient is currently sick or contagious, or if they are immune.
“We can’t base our relaunch on assumptions. We need to know how much immunity people have after they’ve been infected, if they can be infected again, etc.”
The province is taking on four voluntary public health studies, including two pediatric studies that will measure COVID-19 antibody prevalence among groups of Calgary and Edmonton children until 2022. Another study will anonymously test samples from blood collected for other purposes across the province, and the fourth will regularly test select Albertans over the age of 45 to help officials better estimate the number of people exposed to COVID-19.