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EXPLAINED: What you need to know about Covid antibody testing in Switzerland

A sign for Covid antibody testing in the state of California, USA. Photo: Frederic J. BROWN / AFP
A sign for Covid antibody testing in the state of California, USA. Photo: Frederic J. BROWN / AFP
Antibody testing is a way of working out whether you have had the virus before and how immune you may be to future infections. Here’s what you need to know about antibody testing in Switzerland, including where to get it done.

Since the very early days of the pandemic, antibody testing has been used for a variety of purposes. 

From working out how widely the virus has spread to determining a person’s immunity – and of course the prevalence of variants – antibody testing is an important weapon in understanding the virus and curbing the spread of the pandemic. 

Here’s what you need to know about antibody testing in Switzerland. 

What are antibody tests for Covid? 

Antibody tests are the name given to serological tests which seek to determine if you have antibodies in your system for the virus. 

As noted by the Swiss government “the presence of a person’s own antibodies indicates that they have already been in contact with the virus or have been vaccinated.”

Antibody tests are 99 percent reliable in showing Covid antibodies in your blood. 

Is there an official use for Covid antibody testing in Switzerland? 

Dozens of countries, particularly those in Europe, have rolled out antibody testing for a wide range of purposes. 

Some have made antibody testing a part of their official ‘3G’ framework for determining whether someone has had the virus recently and recovered – and can therefore get a Covid passport or certificate. 

In Austria, for instance, people can take official Covid antibody tests to determine if they are deemed ‘recovered’ and can get that country’s health pass as a result. 

In Switzerland however, proof of recovery can only include a medical certificate proving you have had the virus, or a positive PCR test. 

UPDATED: How do you prove you’ve recovered from Covid in Switzerland?

Regardless of which antibody test you take, this will not be sufficient to get a Covid certificate. 

The Swiss government says this is because the tests are as yet not reliable. 

“They are currently not recommended in general because they provide only limited information about the degree and duration of protection from possible re-infection,” the government writes on its website. 

What can antibody tests be used for, then? 

Antibody testing has been relatively common among researchers, however outside of these studies the main use for antibody tests is to determine whether you have had the virus or not. 

Antibody tests can also be used to determine how much immunity you still have after being vaccinated, although scientists say that more tests need to be done before this can be more reliably proven. 

Readers have however brought to our attention a relatively unorthodox use of antibody testing which appears contrary to government policy. 

One reader who had tried to get a booster shot ahead of an overseas trip was told by her doctor that she needed to take an antibody test first to determine if a booster shot was necessary. 

As The Local Switzerland has reported previously, this is not government policy. As at October 2021, the government has left it up to the cantons to determine how booster shots will be carried out, but they have so far been reserved for those who are in very high risk categories. 

READ MORE: Which Swiss cantons are already offering Covid booster shots?

How can I get tested for Covid antibodies? 

Unlike tests to determine if you are currently infected with Covid (i.e. both PCR and antigen tests), antibody tests require a sample of blood. 

Fortunately, this can usually be with a small pinprick to the finger. Around five drops of blood will be sufficient. 

Test results need to be processed in a lab and will take a few days. 

The Swiss Agency for Therapeutic Products (Swissmedic) approves certain laboratories for antibody testing. 

The best way to get tested is to visit your local pharmacy. Click this link to see if your local pharmacy offers antibody testing. 

Each pharmacy will charge you a cost to carry out the test, although this will vary from place to place. 


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