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15% of staff at St James' Hospital in Dublin have Covid-19 antibodies

A total of 64% of 6,000 healthcare workers from the two hospitals participated in the study.

Image: Shutterstock/Tyler Olson

THE HSE HAS today published a study which examined the prevalence of Covid-19 antibodies in healthcare workers in two Irish hospitals. 

In St James’ Hospital in Dublin, 15% of staff had antibodies for Covid-19, while 4.1% of staff in University Hospital Galway had antibodies. 

Antibodies are are special proteins produced by the body’s immune system to help fight disease. They are usually produced when an individual contracts an illness, although they are also produced when a person is vaccinated.

All staff working in both hospitals (9,038 people) were offered antibody testing over a 10-day period in October.

In total, 5,921 blood samples were collected, representing a 66% uptake in St James’ Hospital and a 64% uptake in University Hospital Galway. 

Speaking at this evening’s press briefing at the Department of Health, Dr Lorraine Doherty, National Clinical Director for Health Protection HSE, said the study had a “good representation from right across the whole spectrum of the workforce”, including nurses, doctors, administrative staff and child support staff. 

Addressing the difference percentages in both hospitals, Doherty said: “When we think about the differences between the two hospitals, we know it reflects the differences in community transmission in Dublin and Galway, rather than specific infection control measures in the two hospitals. 

“We know healthcare workers are more at risk of contracting Covid-19 by virtue of their work.”

In a statement this evening, Doherty said it is “important to note that antibody positivity cannot be taken to mean a person is immune, and all infection prevention and control measures still need to be followed”. 

“The study will be repeated in the springtime to see how seroprevalence changes with successive ways of the pandmeic, and how antibody status changes in the individuals who participate both times,” Doherty said. 

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“The second round of testing will also look at vaccine response versus national infection, given recent commencement of the national vaccination programme.” 

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