Coronavirus: antibody tests now accessible in Belgium

Coronavirus: antibody tests now accessible in Belgium
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Tests to determine whether a person has built antibodies against the new coronavirus (Covid-19) will now be available in Belgium, social security officials said.

The INAMI social security body announced on Friday the conditions under which the serological tests could be reimbursed, paving the way for their use in patients in Belgium.

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Through a blood sample analysis, serological tests determine whether a patient's immune system has developed defences after coming in contact with a virus and can be key in gauging population immunity and the extent of exposure to the virus.

But health experts still lack sufficient data to establish the extent to which the presence of antibodies in a patient can protect them from becoming ill.

These tests had not been used in Belgium until now because doctors and clinical labs could not bill patients or insurers for the tests.

But INAMI's stringent conditions and rules for patients eligible for reimbursement will mean that a majority of people will have to pay for the tests out of pocket.

In an online statement, INAMI said that reimbursement will be possible only for health care workers and for hospitalised patients with an unclear or contradictory Covid-19 diagnoses.

Additional conditions for reimbursement of the tests also include that it was prescribed by a doctor and that the procedures and materials used are in line with recommendations by federal health institute Sciensano.

"It is clear that a majority of patients is going to ask for a test but will not meet these conditions," Dr Thomas Orban told L'Echo, adding that it was in country's best interest to widen testing as much as possible.

"It will help us to grow our experience into how the disease is evolving," he said.

Belgian authorities had already ordered some 3.65 million serological tests which had been sitting unused in labs, and for which the amount reimbursed will be of €9.60, according to L'Echo.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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