Under a bill just passed by the Kentucky Senate, COVID-19 antibody tests registering at a certain level or above would be the equivalent of being vaccinated, according to the commonwealth.
Senate Joint Resolution 3 would require the state of Kentucky to recognize individuals, including state employees, with "measurable neutralizing antibodies to COVID-19" above a certain level as having the same level of protection against the virus as those who have been vaccinated.
Read the full bill here.
The measure, which passed the chamber 26-10 Thursday, drew only two Republican no votes from Sens. Chris McDaniel and Wil Schroder. Bill sponsor Ralph Alvarado, a physician, has argued the conversation around vaccination should expand to the broader question of immunity.
"Many countries are starting to recognize not only people being vaccinated, but also having proof of immunity. They've already got the infection and they have proof of an adequate antibody level," he said in committee.
Alvarado pointed to studies suggesting previous COVID infection may help confer better protection, especially against variants -- though data have also pointed to even more robust response in recovered COVID patients who went on to get vaccinated.
Democrat Karen Berg, a physician, argued the state has no scientifically-backed data suggesting it should place the tests on par with the shot.
"If we did, I can promise you one other state in the union would be considering it, would have done it before us," she said. "That has not happened."
Republican Phillip Wheeler said, while it's important to continue urging vaccination, the action could keep some frontliner workers on the job.
"There is a segment of our population, including healthcare workers, that don't want to get these vaccines that may have had COVID who can provide useful services in dealing with this crisis," he said. "To the extent this encourages those people and enables them to care for those in need at this time, I do believe it is an important tool."
If enacted, the bill has an expiration date of January 31, 2022.