As we begin another holiday season with the COVID-19 pandemic still looming, it might be tempting to succumb to pandemic response fatigue. For some, that could mean giving up entirely and throwing a party to end all parties, while for others that could mean canceling plans and avoiding family gatherings altogether. However, there’s no need to go to either of those extremes. There are some simple steps you can take to help keep you and your family safe during the holidays, so you can enjoy your time together and celebrate the season.
One of the easiest ways to protect yourself and others is vaccination. An estimated 76.6% of people in the US over the age of five have already received one dose of the vaccine and 64.8% are fully vaccinated.
Booster shots are recommended for everyone over the age of 18. These doses can be administered six months after completing a two-dose vaccine regimen (Pfizer or Moderna) or two months after a single Johnson & Johnson shot. To simplify the process and make it easier for more people to get their boosters, the CDC now supports the idea of mix-and-match vaccination, which means any of the authorized or approved vaccines may be used as a booster, regardless of which primary series a patient received, .
In the current environment, where new variants continue to emerge, questions have arisen about the efficacy of our available vaccines in preventing infection, as well as reducing the incidence of severe illness and death. Although our understanding of the newest identified variant of concern, Omicron, is not yet complete, preliminary evidence suggests that having high levels of neutralizing antibodies, like those created by the vaccine, provides a layer of protection. This is especially true in those who have received a primary series and a booster dose.
Depending upon your destination and local or regional requirements, testing may be required before traveling. Testing is also a sensible way to gain peace of mind before getting together with family or friends. While requirements vary by destination, consider the following guidelines:
Testing for Travel or Special Events:
- The majority of locations outside the US require a molecular test — most commonly, a PCR test. These are available with multiple collection-method options, like nasal swabs or saliva.
- Some locations will allow rapid antigen testing in lieu of molecular testing. For these locations, there may be additional requirements, such as unique collection methods or specific devices necessary.
Testing for personal use can be customized to meet individual needs, each type has its own best use cases:
- Molecular/PCR — this type of test is the most accurate type available, especially for patients without symptoms. To register positive, these tests only need a tiny amount of genetic material of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. These are available with a prescription, which we can provide for you at an ARCpoint Labs location before collecting a sample, and the results are usually back within 1-3 days. Many ARCpoint Labs also offer expedited service and can return results within a few hours.
- Antigen — for patients with symptoms, these tests are quite accurate. Based upon internal validation studies, provided to the FDA, many antigen tests identify positive cases >95% of the time. These tests are available in two formats (with or without a prescription) and return results in as little as 15-30 minutes.
Testing for curiosity
- Many people are currently wondering if they’re protected from COVID-19 infection. While there is no guaranteed way to measure that, at this stage in the research cycle, we do have some tools that can begin to build a clinical picture. This information may be useful, when combined with an evaluation by your healthcare provider, as a way to make informed decisions about your activities. According to a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine, antibody activity and viral neutralization remains high in adult participants six months post vaccination, but may begin to decay after that time.
- Antibody testing has evolved to the point where it can identify antibodies of different types — those created either by vaccination or by infection — and can measure their concentration. In the future, researchers will likely establish a reference range, above which a person is considered ‘protected,’ but until that time, results can be shared with a healthcare provider as a springboard for individualized interpretation.
- In addition to antibody testing, ARCpoint Labs offers Tru-Immune, a viral neutralization test which measures the activity of a person’s immune system against SARS-CoV-2. Instead of identifying or counting antibodies, this test reports a percentage of neutralization, where >20% means a person would be protected from infection, when exposed to SARS-CoV-2, at the time of testing.
No matter what your holiday plans are, lean on ARCpoint Labs to help facilitate a healthy and enjoyable season through education, vaccination, and testing. Click here to find the ARCpoint Labs nearest you.
 As of 12/14/2021. CDC COVID Data Tracker. https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#vaccinations_vacc-people-onedose-pop-5yr
 As demonstrated by a preliminary study, published by Pfizer, not yet peer reviewed: https://www.pfizer.com/news/press-release/press-release-detail/pfizer-and-biontech-provide-update-omicron-variant
 Internal validation study provided by Quidel for Sofia SARS Antigen Test. 96.7% positive agreement. https://www.fda.gov/media/137885/download
 “Antibody Persistence through 6 Months after the Second Dose of mRNA-1273 Vaccine for Covid-19”
 “A SARS-CoV-2 surrogate virus neutralization test based on antibody-mediated blockage of ACE2-spike protein-protein interaction”