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Ask the Doctor: My doctor does not recommend getting an antibody test. Why?

This content was current as of the date it was released. In science and medicine, information is constantly changing and may become out-of-date as new data emerge.


Per CDC guidelines, I received the two dose Pfizer vaccine and asked my oncologist if I was then fully immune. He said that I had a “boost” to my immune system. I then asked him about getting an antibody test to see how much immunity I did have. He told me that it was not recommended.I don’t understand. We were all told to get vaccinated (especially people over age 65, which I am) and as a CLL patient, I hoped I might have full or close to full immunity. I do not apparently, but now I have no idea just how much immunity I DO have. So, it seems that people like me still need to wear masks, should not travel (fly, stay in hotels, etc.), cannot give or get hugs! But neither can we learn how “immune” we are to COVID…?!

Answer: While we have remained hopefully optimistic all this time, there has always been the suspicion that CLL patients might have very low odds of mounting a robust immune response to the COVID-19 vaccine. There are finally several clinical trials looking specifically at CLL patients and various aspects of how they responded to the vaccine. We would encourage you to read this excellent opinion piece from Dr. John Byrd if you haven’t already. It touches on this very subject.

Many physicians are coming from the same perspective as yours because there is no value to them to perform the Spike antibody test on their patients, mainly because it will not result in any change in treatment. And no one is sure at this point whether the presence of antibodies even equates to immunity for those with CLL. However, there is at least a psychological component for patients in knowing whether or not they were part of the small percentage of those who produced antibodies.

LLS has been performing a study (although we are not sure for how much longer they will be doing it) that you can enroll in. As a result, they will test you free of charge for the presence of Spike protein antibodies and give you the results. You can find more information about this study and enroll here:

It is of utmost importance to remember that whether you produce antibodies to the vaccine or not, CLL patients should continue to meticulously follow all of the outlined CDC precautions for preventing COVID-19 while we are still in the midst of the pandemic, especially now that everyone else is unmasking.