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VERIFY: Vaccinated, but no COVID-19 antibodies? Doctors weigh in.

Some places offer post-vaccine antibody testing, but what happens if someone doesn't develop any?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Sandy, a WCNC Charlotte viewer, recently reached out with a vaccination dilemma. Sandy's mother got her COVID-19 shots, but continues to test negative for coronavirus antibodies. Sandy wanted to know whether a booster shot is needed.

First, a reminder, that not every antibody test will accurately show if the vaccine worked.

Dr. Brannon Traxler, Public Health Director for South Carolina's Department of Health and Environmental Control, said a negative antibody result is not always a reason to panic.

"Most of these tests look for whether you have antibodies from a previous infection, not necessarily the same ones that might have been made by the vaccine," Traxler said.

The Question

If you've been vaccinated, but have no COVID-19 antibodies afterwards, do you need a booster?

Sources

  • Dr. Brannon Traxler, Public Health Director for South Carolina's Department of Health and Environmental Control
  • Dr. David Priest, Chief Safety, Quality and Epidemiology Officer, Novant Health

The Answer

There is currently no official guidance on what to do next if someone tests negative for coronavirus antibodies after an infection. In fact, the experts say this is why they do not recommend antibody testing after vaccination.

"When people don't make antibodies, it doesn't mean they don't have any protection, but they may have less protection than we may have hoped for from vaccination," Priest said. "We don't have any guidance on timing a booster, how do we mix products or not mix products. So, our guidance is: if you have issues with your immune system and you think you might not respond to the vaccine, you still need to be very careful to avoid COVID."

While doctors do not know what other steps can be taken to boost a person's immune response, researchers are working to find the answer.

"There are studies going on right now to look at whether there's value in getting a third vaccine dose, but we just don't have the results from those studies," Traxler said.

VERIFY is dedicated to helping the public distinguish between true and false information. The VERIFY team, with help from questions submitted by the audience, tracks the spread of stories or claims that need clarification or correction. Have something you want VERIFIED? Text us at 704-329-3600 or visit /verify.

Contact Vanessa Ruffes at vruffes@wcnc.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram