First coronavirus antibody tests will roll out as quickly as possible, Tam says

WATCH: Health Canada has approved the country's first blood test to detect COVID-19 antibodies, to see if a person has been exposed to that virus, and possibly be immune.

The first serological test — or antibody test — for the novel coronavirus will be rolled out as rapidly as possible, Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said on Wednesday.

She said the tests will be used to detect antibodies for COVID-19 that can appear days, or even weeks after the infection to determine how much of the population may have been infected.

The Immunity Task Force has been laying the groundwork to roll out serological testing and is working “as fast as they can,” Tam said.

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“Hopefully this will be quite rapid in terms of its rollout, and we are participating with provinces and existing research networks that have already been formed to look at immunity, as well,” she added.

Health Canada approved the sale of the first test on Tuesday.

It said in a statement that at least one million Canadian blood samples will be collected and tested over the next two years as the Canadian government tracks the virus in the general population and in specific groups at greater risk of having been infected, including health care workers and the elderly.

The statement noted that understanding the scope and scale of COVID-19 infections across the country was the “key to managing the epidemic over the coming months.”

“Serological testing will contribute to a better understanding of whether people who have been infected by COVID-19 are immune to the virus,” the statement read.

“Further research will also help us fully understand the relationship between positive antibody tests and protection against re-infection.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lauded the authorization as good news.

“This is a critical step for the work of the Immunity Task Force,” he said. “These tests will help us better understand immunity against the virus and how it spreads, so we can keep Canadians safe and healthy.”

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Together with research organizations such as the Canadian Institute for Health Research, Tam said the federal government will also be studying the coronavirus’ immunology.

Tam noted Canada will benefit from the experiences of other countries that have already begun serological testing.

“Some of the tests didn’t perform very well,” she said.

“We want the top quality immunity tests identified so that (we) can actually do this properly.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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