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UK to Launch SARS-CoV-2 Antibody Surveillance Program

NEW YORK — The UK government on Sunday announced the launch of a program to track the levels of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 across England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland to help assess the efficacy of vaccines against the virus.

The UK also this week disclosed plans to tackle misleading pricing information about SARS-CoV-2 travel tests, warning test makers that they will be removed from the government's official website.

The antibody surveillance program is open to anyone in the UK over the age of 18 who books a PCR-based SARS-CoV-2 test through the National Health Service's Test and Trace initiative. If they test positive, they can receive two at-home finger-prick antibody tests, one to be administered as soon as possible and the second to be administered 28 days after the positive test result.

The antibody tests will enable the UK Health Security Agency to estimate the proportion of those who got COVID-19 despite developing antibodies as a result of having a vaccine or previously catching coronavirus. They could also provide insights into groups of people who do not develop immune responses.

The program will enroll up to 8,000 participants and is set to roll out later this week.

Separately, the UK's Department of Health and Social Care said on Monday that it will implement a two-strike warning program against SARS-CoV-2 travel test makers that don't provide accurate information about the pricing of their tests.

The agency said that a review of day 2 and day 8 tests on revealed that 82 test makers, representing 18 percent of those listed on the site, displayed lower prices on than on their own websites at the point of checkout.

As a result, the government will perform regular spot checks to make sure companies are complying with pricing rules. Those firms that continue to list misleading prices will be removed from the site.

The Department of Health and Social Care noted that it is planning to remove 57 companies from the list because they no longer exist or don't provide day 2 and day 8 testing.

"It is absolutely unacceptable for any private testing company to be taking advantage of holidaymakers and today’s action clamps down on this cowboy behavior," UK Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said in a statement.