By Petty Officer 2nd Class Pyoung Yi, USS Theodore Roosevelt
Thousands of sailors from the aircraft carrier and the embarked staffs signed on to have their blood drawn. It will be analyzed for antibodies indicating whether or not they have been previously exposed to COVID-19.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Rebecca Pavlicek, a microbiologist from Navy Environmental Preventive Medicine Unit Six in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, who is embarked aboard Theodore Roosevelt to help administer the tests, said the science behind COVID-19 antibody testing is still in the development stage.
“The science on this test is relatively new, and we do not know if the antibodies resulting from infection will provide future immunity,” Pavlicek said. “We do know it is important for the Navy to provide sailors with leading-edge medical care and testing, and that this kind of information can also help primary care physicians in providing the best health care possible to each and every sailor.”
The test required medical personnel to draw a small amount of blood from each crew member to be shipped to Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu for testing.
“An antibody test looks for the presence of specific protective proteins made by the body in response to infections,” said Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Maybelle Lania, a lab technician and leading petty officer of the Theodore Roosevelt‘s medical department. “This test can detect COVID-19-specific antibodies in most people who have had an infection, whether they knew it or not.”
Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Ahmad Hammad tested negative for the virus while the ship was in Guam, but still signed up for the testing.
“I’m mainly curious about whether I had it,” Hammad said. “I never tested positive, but I am doing it to help our medical staff find a solution to this disease.”
“While this antibody testing won’t contribute to vaccine development directly, this will help the Navy develop tools for future outbreak response and will provide each sailor with information on their current state of health,” Pavlicek said.
The Theodore Roosevelt is the nation’s fourth Nimitz-class aircraft carrier with a crew of nearly 5,000 sailors who support and conduct air operations at sea. The carrier left San Diego on Jan. 17 for a scheduled Indo-Pacific region deployment.
(Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Pyoung Yi is assigned to the USS Theodore Roosevelt.)