Local pharmacies offer COVID-19 rapid antibody test, but how effective?

Nov 2, 2020

Pharmacies at a few local grocery stores are now offering antibody testing, but the efficacy of the tests is still in question. 

If you think you may have had the COVID-19 virus, you can now take a $25 dollar antibody test at Ralph’s pharmacies.

Joe Rosilez, manager of the Ralph's pharmacy in Los Osos, said it's a simple and quick test. 

“It only requires one drop of blood," Rosilez said. "They have a special solution that you add two drops to the blood to, and results are within 15 mins.”

The particular test used at Ralph’s is FDA-approved, he said.

“The accuracy is the mid-90th percentile," Rosilez said. "It’s a fairly accurate test.”

The antibody test isn’t checking for the virus itself. Instead, it looks to see whether your immune system has responded to the infection. Rosilez said if someone does test positive for the antibodies, they shouldn’t get a false sense of security.

“We don’t know enough about this virus at this point, we don’t know enough about the antibodies," Rosilez said. "So it’s an informational tool, maybe a piece of mind tool, but it’s not something to stand by and go ‘I’m not going to wear a mask.’”

Paige Batson with Santa Barbara County's public health department said while it’s not a bad idea for people to get the antibody test, she doesn’t think we are quite there in being able to fully understand what the antibodies mean. 

“It still wouldn’t tell you what I believe a lot of people want to know,” Batson said.

People want to know if that means they’re immune if they’ve already had the virus, but Batson said if you test positive for having antibodies, it means you have some protection but there’s not enough evidence supporting that you won’t get the virus again. 

“We really cannot say what that duration is," Batson said. "Are you going to be immune for six months, nine months a year...forever? We really don’t know that."

For those interested in taking the antibody test, Ralph’s pharmacies in Los Osos and Santa Barbara are accepting appointments, but you must call ahead of time to book a time slot.