KINDERHOOK — Columbia County will move forward with plans to offer antibody testing to members of the public, beginning with essential workers such as EMS providers and law enforcement officers, health officials said Thursday.
The announcement is the culmination of a months-long effort on the part of Columbia County Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Chuck Kaiser and county health officials.
Kaiser completed an extensive search for accurate antibody tests that ended with the county purchasing 1,000 kits from the Kinderhook-based American Bio Medica Corporation.
Antibody testing is able to identify whether a person has ever had a mild or asymptomatic case of COVID-19.
American Bio Medica, headquartered at 122 Smith Road in Kinderhook, was founded by Stan Cipkowski, brother of Hillsdale Supervisor Peter Cipkowski, CEO Melissa Waterhouse said.
Working with a laboratory at Columbia Memorial Health, the county launched its own in-house analysis of the kits’ accuracy before offering antibody testing to the public.
The county is satisfied that the antibody tests provided by American Bio Medica work as advertised, officials announced Monday.
“We are happy to report that the rapid test kits tested in the [CMH] lab proved to be 100% accurate when compared to the existing lab testing equipment,” Kaiser said.
The county is laying the groundwork to begin antibody testing, with first responders receiving top priority, Public Health Director Jack Mabb said Thursday.
Two types of tests are used to determine a person’s COVID-19 status: diagnostic and serological, more commonly called antibody testing. While diagnostic testing has been used since the beginning of the pandemic to identify active cases of the virus, antibody testing was adopted more slowly because few testing kits were deemed accurate enough to receive authorization for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The HealGen antibody testing kits distributed by American Bio Medica received FDA authorization on May 29, and the county placed its order for 1,000 soon after.
Waterhouse called the kits “highly accurate” in detecting COVID-19 antibodies and said the company was pleased to provide its products to the local community.
The test has top marks for both sensitivity and specificity, meaning it detects the correct antibodies with a high level of accuracy, as shown by the emergency authorization from the FDA, Waterhouse said.
The county’s search for antibody testing kits had its complications.
American Bio Medica’s HealGen antibody kits can be sold only to laboratories that meet federal regulatory standards, which led health officials to partner with Columbia Memorial Health to purchase the kits.
Once purchased, the kits underwent further accuracy testing at the behest of county health officials, who wanted to double-check that they met the FDA’s standards for emergency use.
Internal testing was done at Columbia Memorial to compare the antibody kits’ results to the results of control tests performed using existing lab equipment, Kaiser said.
“CMH has worked very closely with the Columbia County Health Department to validate the COVID test,” CMH Spokesman William Van Slyke said. “As we have throughout the pandemic, we will continue to work with all of our partners, including our county health departments, other providers and emergency services personnel to ensure our communities are equipped to sustain an effective response to the virus.”
Officials hope that increased antibody testing, which shows whether a person has been exposed to COVID-19 and subsequently produced an immune response, will give them a better picture of the virus’ spread since March, when Columbia County had its first known positive case.