Sen. Bill Cassidy: A COVID-19 ‘Immune Registry’ Could Move the Nation Back to Work

By Susan Jones | April 8, 2020 | 8:45am EDT
 Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La) has a medical degree. (Photo by ZACH GIBSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La) has a medical degree. (Photo by ZACH GIBSON/AFP via Getty Images)

( - Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), a physician, is proposing an "immune registry" for people who have had coronavirus, similar to the vaccination and immunization records kept on most American children.

"An immune registry would document that you’ve recovered and that you’re protected from #COVID19," Cassidy tweeted on Tuesday.

In a March 26 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Cassidy said restarting the U.S. economy depends on the government knowing who has had the virus, even if the person doesn't know they've had it. And the Trump administration apparently plans to find out who is immune and who is not:

"The administration is planning on widespread, what is called sero surveillance -- checking people to see if they've previously been exposed to the coronavirus. And if you have that, okay I am now immune. I never knew I was infected. I'm immune, I can return to the economy," Cassidy told Fox News's Laura Ingraham Tuesday night.

Cassidy said the scientific community expects that immunity to COVID-19 will last at least until a vaccine is developed: "So we don't know for sure, but there's a lot of circumstantial evidence that that immunity is going to last for a while."

Cassidy agreed that there aren't enough immune people to restart the economy right now, but he advocates building up that number by sending young people out first:

Your children go back to school. Children classically spread disease among each other and give it to the old people, if you will, like me. And so if you have folks back in school, they are going to become immune, the children are.

As long as you are periodically monitoring when they become immune, then you can free the children to have the normal interaction they would have with their grandparents.

You start building up that herd immunity just by allowing younger people to resume their lives, but do serial testing to protect the older people that need to know who's immune and who is not.

The immune registry would be HIPAA (medical privacy) protected, Cassidy said:

“We've been living with immunization registries since the mid-1990s. Whenever a child is vaccinated at birth, hepatitis B, et cetera, it's entered online and in which entered college, law enforcement money five years later you pull it down, you say here's my record, I'm okay, you don't have to get revaccinated.

“So we've actually been living with these for quite some time and they are HIPAA protected.”

The Food and Drug Administration, in a statement released on Tuesday, noted that serological tests measure antibodies or proteins present in the blood after the body responds to a specific infection, such as COVID-19. The test detects the body’s immune response to the infection, not the virus itself.

According to FDA:

Serological tests can play a critical role in the fight against COVID-19 by helping healthcare professionals to identify individuals who have overcome an infection in the past and have developed an immune response. 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.

In addition, these test results can aid in determining who may donate a part of their blood called convalescent plasma, which may serve as a possible treatment for those who are seriously ill from COVID-19. This is why Vice President Mike Pence called on the laboratory community to develop serological tests for COVID-19.

In March, the FDA issued a policy to allow developers of certain serological tests to begin to market or use their tests once they have performed the appropriate evaluation to determine that their tests are accurate and reliable.

This includes allowing developers to market their tests without prior FDA review if certain conditions outlined in the guidance document are met...The FDA can also authorize tests for COVID-19 under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). To date, FDA has authorized one EUA for a serological test that is intended for use by clinical laboratories.

The FDA said more than 70 test developers have told FDA they have serological tests available for use. "However, some firms are falsely claiming that their serological tests are FDA approved or authorized, or falsely claiming that they can diagnose COVID-19. The FDA will take appropriate action against firms making false claims or marketing tests that are not accurate and reliable."

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