Govt. to go for Covid-19 antibody test after two weeks

AstraZeneca-Moderna mix-and-match vaccine would be accepted by many countries, says PM

The government would test the antibody level after two weeks to see whether the Bhutanese vaccinated are immunologically protected, according to Prime Minister Dasho Dr Lotay Tshering. 

“Each person’s antibody test would cost around Nu 3,000 and the government could spare a few million dollars for the test,” he added. 

Bhutan’s second dose COVID-19 vaccination campaign that ended on July 26 saw about 90.2% of the eligible population vaccinated or 61.8% of the total population. 

About 90% of the Bhutanese opted for the heterologous vaccine (AstraZeneca-Moderna) and 5% for the homologous (AstraZeneca-AstraZeneca). 

Lyonchhen said the study will look into the two cohorts, those who are inoculated with AstraZeneca vaccine as the first and second dose and the mix-and-match of AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccine, to compare whether the antibody level is equal or better with Moderna. 

Additionally, Lyonchhen said there is a certain cut-off to determine the antibody. 

“We do not care how many doses one has taken if we do not have the neutralizing antibody,” said Lyonchhen. ‘It is clear that the higher the concentration of specific, anti-COVID-19 antibodies in the blood, the higher the level of protection.’ 

The antibody test, an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay-based competitive neutralization test, for the qualitative detection of total neutralizing antibodies has been issued an emergency use authorization by the United States Food and Drug Administration. 

Talking about the vaccine passport or immunity passport, Lyonchhen said vaccine passports are not globalized and only some countries have accepted them. 

 “The ideal is to check the antibody level,” said Lyonchhen. 

The vaccine passport is an official document that certifies that an individual has been infected and is purportedly immune to SARS-COV-2, and it gives an individual more freedom to travel and socialize, allowing people to enter a country if they can provide evidence that they have already recovered from COVID-19, according to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization.

Lyonchhen said any country that accepts AstraZeneca-AstraZeneca will accept AstraZeneca-Moderna mix-and-match vaccine. 

“Not many people in the world will have Pfizer-Pfizer or Moderna-Moderna of the vaccine jab. The best two doses in the world are Pfizer-Pfizer and Moderna-Moderna. Secondly, AstraZeneca-Moderna or AstraZeneca-Pfizer and thirdly AstraZeneca-AstraZeneca then others,” Lyonchhen said. 

Further, Lyonchhen said another booster jab might be required even after the second jab and the study has not yet confirmed how long the COVID-19 immunity lasts. 

Thukten Zangpo from Thimphu