COVID-19 antibody testing and ‘immunity certification’

Policy Briefing

Published 18/06/2020

Immunity certificates rapid policy briefing Page 1
This rapid policy briefing looks at the ethical questions raised by 'immunity certification.'
COVID test

Ethical implications of antibody testing and “immunity certification”

This webinar took place on Thursday 2 July, 12.00 – 12.40 (BST)


  • Professor Bobbie Farsides, Professor of Clinical and Biomedical Ethics, Brighton and Sussex Medical School
  • Dr Agomoni Ganguli-Mitra, Lecturer and Chancellor’s Fellow in Bioethics and Global Health Ethics, University of Edinburgh School of Law
  • Professor Dr Steffen Augsberg, Professor of Public Law, University of Giessen


  • Hugh Whittall, Director, Nuffield Council on Bioethics

Governments around the world have started to modify restrictions introduced to slow the spread of COVID-19. In the absence of an effective treatment or vaccine, attention has turned to other ways of monitoring and managing the spread of the disease.

One of the options being widely discussed is a system of antibody testing to assess an individual’s risk of being infected and transmitting the virus to others – which could subsequently be used as the basis for an “immunity certification” scheme.

On 18 June, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics published a rapid policy briefing which highlights a number of ethical considerations that need urgent attention before any further development of technology or services based on antibody testing. We have also subsequently published a discussion paper which expands on many of the issues covered in the briefing paper.

Join us for a discussion on the ethical questions raised by COVID-19 antibody testing and immunity certification including:

  • the ethical implications of immunity certification for respect for individual rights and interests;
  • the relationship between individual rights and public interests;
  • the impact of such a measure on already socially marginalised and disadvantaged groups; and
  • how this issue is being approached and addressed internationally.

Attendees will not be audible or visible during the webinar, but will be able to put questions to the panel through a Q&A tool.