Covid immunity tests to be rolled out for 5,000 old people’s home residents and staff

The government has announced it will be moving forwards with Covid immunity tests (‘serological’ testing) on 5,000 old people’s home residents and staff.

In the context of an ongoing debate over whether or not the most vulnerable should be given a 3rd dose of vaccine ahead of the winter months – and against a backdrop in which 53 outbreaks of Covid-19 are currently running in Portuguese old people’s homes – the objective is to “increase scientific knowledge on the duration of effects of the vaccine” – both on the most elderly in the population, and the much younger staff who care for them.

The strategy has been in the making for several weeks, and will start this month.

It is being led by the Algarve Biomedical Center (ABC) and the Champalimaud Foundation.

Results will be published in September, says a statement put out today by the Ministry of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security.

“The study is being undertaken in the regions of the Algarve and Alentejo”, explains the statement. “ABC will contact all the institutions in these regions, requesting  participation of residents and (healthcare) professionals, until a target of 5,000 has been reached”.

The study will not incur costs for the participating institutions.

The statement confirms that these serological tests will be going ahead in a universe in which 99% of the elderly, and 97% of healthcare professionals are already fully-vaccinated.

According to the vaccination task force’s data, there are still around 1,000 old people in Portugal who haven’t been vaccinated, principally because they have recovered from testing positive for the virus, but have not yet completed the six-months post-infection after which they can receive their single dose of vaccine.

When it comes to care home staff, there are roughly 2,100 without vaccinations – “around 70% because they are recovering from infection. The rest haven’t yet taken the vaccine up because they have only recently started their jobs, or because of health conditions that are not seen as compatible it, adds the government statement.