Basseterre, St. Kitts, August 19, 2021 (SKNIS): As misinformation continues in some segments of society regarding COVID-19 testing and vaccination, Medical Chief of Staff at the Joseph N. France General Hospital (JNF), Dr. Cameron Wilkinson, during the August 18, 2021 NEOC COVID-19 Press briefing outlined the differences between the COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test, the Antibody Test and the PCR Test currently being used at ports of entries to the Federation.
“We have two main categories of tests. We have the Antibody Test and the Antigen Test. The Antibody Tests are described as the rapid test because you can get the results within a few minutes. There is also the standard PCR Test which is done in the lab and can take several hours, and that is the gold standard test that we use. With the Antibody test, they test for proteins that are developed in the body when someone becomes infected with COVID-19… The IGM and IGG proteins appear two to three weeks after you have been infected, so if one were to use the Rapid Antibody test to screen for COVID-19 someone could be positive for two weeks and just be walking around spreading the virus,” said Dr. Wilkinson.
Dr. Wilkinson further stated that the decisions made by health officials are all based on science, noting that the first Antigen Test was only given permission for emergency use by the CDC on 19th May of 2020. Several cruise lines have been using the rapid antigen test to screen passengers in recent months, but Dr. Wilkinson believes that these tests still have room for much error relating to their effectiveness and efficiency.
“If someone test negative with the rapid antigen test you would have to follow it up with the gold standard PCR Test since many false negatives are appearing with these tests due to a low viral load. Some of the cruise ships are using the rapid antigen test to screen persons who they suspect might be positive and they are finding greater use for that purpose for screening of persons in small gatherings. As the science has developed, we are considering using these tests but this is completely separate and different from the Antibody Test,” said Dr. Cameron Wilkinson.
Last year, Dr. Terrence Drew donated Antibody Test to the Ministry of Health for public use. But under advice from medical practitioners and data available from research, the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis via the Ministry of Health has not used these tests in the Federation in an effort to provide the best possible testing mechanism in the fight against COVID-19.