UNCP holds antibody testing as it researches COVID immunity

State - Regional

PEMBROKE, N.C. (WBTW) — Dozens had their blood drawn Friday at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke as the university conducts cutting-edge COVID research.

The participants were getting tested for COVID antibodies as UNCP researchers learn more about the virus in Robeson County. The service was free of charge and open to faculty, staff, students and the community.

“One of the things that’s critical for community health is to understand how many people have developed defense mechanisms against COVID,” Chair of UNCP’s Department of Nursing and endowed professor for rural and minority health Dr. Cherry Beasley said. “We are actually part of a study in the state to see how long this defense lasts as well as what percentage of the people are having developed COVID defenses.”

The UNC Board of Governors partnered with the NC Policy Collaboratory at UNC-Chapel Hill to award six million dollars in COVID-19 funding to the UNC system’s six historically minority-serving institutions for research and campus needs.

“Everybody chose what was best for their community and this is what Pembroke chose,” Dr. Beasley said.

She said the university has had another one of these testing events on campus, and has so far done them at seven schools in Robeson County. She said based on results that come in, less than seven percent of people screened had immunity. But they’re still gathering data.

“We were thinking it would be a little higher than that, but we’ve just begun to get our data from some of our community schools,” Dr. Beasley noted.

Director of Student Health Services at UNCP Dr. Crystal Moore says there is still a lot to learn about these antibodies.

“If I turn up and it says I have the COVID antibodies what does that really mean,” she said. “What we don’t want is for people to feel like they’re immune to the virus because we just don’t know enough yet.”

She said some want to know if they had COVID at an earlier point.

“A lot of people we’ve heard the narrative, ‘I was sick back in January, I was sick November of last year,'” Dr. Moore said. “They’re really interested to see did I have the virus and I didn’t know it and I want to see if I have those antibodies.”

UNCP plans to have its last testing event in its first cycle next week at Robeson Community College. It will have a second round in November and December, when it will invite the participants back.

“We will be coming back again in six weeks to measure people, to see if you were immune today, if you had the antibodies today, if they lasted that long,” Dr. Beasley said. “Which is very important as we think about opening schools, opening up churches. So that we can actually do that. There’s a very important thing called herd immunity and that means enough people in your community have it, so it won’t spread like wildfire.”

Count on News13 for updates.

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