Cards proving people have immunity to the CCP virus are under consideration, according to a top public health official.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said it was possible when asked during an appearance on CNN's "New Day" whether people could one day carry forms attesting to immunity.
"I mean, it's one of those things that we talk about when we want to make sure that we know who the vulnerable people are and not," he said. "This is something that's being discussed. I think it might actually have some merit, under certain circumstances."
Fauci did not specify whether federal officials were discussing the idea or whether he was referring to discussions happening elsewhere. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases did not respond to a request for clarification.
The new virus, which emerged in China last year, causes COVID-19, a disease that kills a small percentage of those infected. The majority of them are elderly or having underlying conditions.
German researchers and a British health official are among those who have also floated the idea of presenting proof that one is likely immune to the virus. UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock proposed it in the form of a wristband.
Several experts have expressed dismay at the proposals.
Others voiced support, including Allison Hoffman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who specializes in health-care law. “From a policy perspective, it’s not especially worrisome if the rest of the population has good unemployment coverage," she said. "It would speed economic rebuilding, which I think everyone would want, whether employed or not.”
A significant number of patients contract the illness but show few or no symptoms, making antibody tests, also known as serological tests, the only way they can be sure they were once infected, unlike PCR tests, which only show whether individuals have the illness.
The Food and Drug Administration approved the first antibody test last week.
"In the future, this may potentially be used to help determine, together with other clinical data, that such individuals are no longer susceptible to infection and can return to work," the administration's commissioner, Dr. Stephen Hahn, said on Tuesday.
Officials expect to have a large number of antibody tests available within the next week or so. Only tests validated by federal agencies should be used, according to Fauci.
Antibody testing "will make it easier to decide when Americans can go back to work or back to school," according to a statement from the offices of Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).
Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, has also mentioned antibody tests as a key part of re-opening the state after implementing a lockdown to try to blunt the spread of the CCP virus.