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A health worker extracting blood from a patient for a coronavirus antibody test in Krakow, Poland, in April 2020. Photo: Omar Marques/Getty Images

When the GOP Doctors Caucus gathered to publicly encourage vaccines last week, the message came with a caveat: Talk to your doctor about an antibody test.

For example: "If you haven’t had the vaccine, or if you haven’t tested positive for the virus, go to your doctor. Ask him for the antibody test," said Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), who is an OB/GYN.

  • "And then you and your doctor should decide the pros and cons, the risks and benefits and if you want the vaccine."

Be smart: This advice runs counter to CDC guidance. Public health experts say natural immunity certainly shouldn't be disregarded, but they wouldn't support this recommendation.

“It is true that if you’ve had prior infection, you have some protection," said Jen Kates, KFF's senior vice president and director of global health and HIV policy.

  • However, current scientific evidence shows the vaccine-induced immunity consistently protects better than natural immunity in part because of how the virus learns to disrupt and evade the immune system, Vineet Menachery, a virologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch, tells Axios.
  • Experts said antibody tests are useful tools, but they aren't perfect and they don't necessarily tell a person the level of antibodies they have.
  • “Put it this way: For me? I wouldn’t rely on that as a method of protection," Kates said.

Go deeper: Prominent Republicans find new enthusiasm for COVID-19 vaccines

Go deeper

Nov 3, 2021 - Health

CDC: U.S. not considering changing definition of "fully vaccinated"

Photo: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is "not examining" changing its definition for what it means to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, director Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday.

Driving the news: Walensky had previously said the U.S. "may need to update" its definition after the approval of booster shots.

Nov 3, 2021 - Health

Air Force: Nearly 97% of active members complied with vaccine mandate

A U.S. Air Force service member preparing a dose of a coronavirus vaccine in Boston in February. Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images

The Air Force said Wednesday that nearly 97% of its approximately 326,000 active duty service members have complied with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin's mandate and have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine before the branch's Nov. 2 deadline.

Why it matters: Around 8,500 active members missed the deadline. Many of them have filed for medical exemptions and religious accommodations, which are being reviewed by the department.

Philly to begin vaccinating children ages 5-11

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Philadelphia's Public Health Department said certain providers will begin administering COVID-19 vaccines to children ages 5-11 immediately.

Driving the news: CDC director Rochelle Walensky recommended the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 years old late Tuesday.

  • The endorsement, which follows CDC independent advisers' unanimous recommendation, marks the final step in the U.S. approval process, clearing the shots for younger kids.

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