Antigen tests are an important ‘first line of defense’ against COVID-19, but certain variables can impact test results. In some cases, taking a highly sensitive and specific PCR test may be ideal to confirm a “true positive” or a “true negative” – especially in light of the recent Omicron surge. Scientists have reported that this variant may have a shorter incubation period compared to earlier COVID variants. This is important to keep in mind if you’re returning to work or school, where more people are present and transmissibility is more likely to happen. With a “true positive” test result, you’ll know right away that you need to isolate yourself; and with a “true negative”, you’ll have the assurance you need to be able to return to group settings safely.
Here are six scenarios when confirmatory PCR testing may be ideal:
You Tested Positive on an Antigen COVID-19 Test
When you take an antigen COVID-19 test, a positive result indicates that viral antigens were detected, and you are presumed to be infected. This will confirm that you should isolate; however, your results will not automatically be documented. Public health officials rely on reports of positive cases in order to accurately track and track the virus’ spread in the community. With PCR testing, positive results are immediately entered into your medical record, and public health officials are alerted.
You Tested Negative on an Antigen COVID-19 Test, But You Have Symptoms
Generally, negative results from an antigen COVID-19 test indicate that it’s pretty safe to engage in activities. However, these tests only offer a snapshot of how much virus you are shedding. In other words, a negative result can indicate that your viral load is not yet high enough to be detectable on a less-sensitive antigen test. This would be a good reason to then take a confirmatory PCR test.
Someone in Your Household Tested Positive, But You’re Still Testing Negative on Antigen COVID-19 Test
There are a few different reasons why you might be testing negative with an antigen test even if someone in your household has tested positive. You might not be swabbing your nose and/or throat correctly, and therefore, aren’t picking up enough viral particles to register a positive result. Another reason could be that you’re testing too early for an antigen test to be accurate. Keep in mind that it can take up to 14 days to show symptoms, or you might be asymptomatic.(source, source) A confirmatory PCR test will either reinforce your negative antigen result, or you might learn that your viral load wasn’t large enough for the antigen test to detect the presence of pathogens. Note that PCR tests are more sensitive, so they will indicate a positive result one to two days sooner than an antigen test.
You Can’t Afford to Make a Mistake With Spreading COVID-19
Are you nervous about visiting an elderly or immunocompromised person? Does your business depend on keeping production going? COVID-19 has health and economic impacts that reach far and wide. Confirmatory PCR testing is a simple yet effective way to check your COVID-19 infection status and have peace of mind that you will not be a “silent spreader” to friends, family, coworkers, etc.
Travel Requirements Include Negative Results From a PCR COVID-19 Test
Countries around the world now require travelers (departing or arriving) to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test, even if they are vaccinated. These precautions are in place to help prevent the virus from continuing to spread and evolve. Given that PCR tests are the most sensitive and accurate COVID testing option, some governments and airlines rely on PCR results to ensure that infected individuals are not traveling across borders. Others allow both PCR and antigen testing. Yes, testing adds an extra step to your travel prep, but it will keep you and other passengers – and entire populations! – safe. You can also upload your Vault test results to your CLEAR account or Empire Pass for convenience.
You Want to Return to Regular Activities but Your Antigen Test was Inconclusive
Did you get a faint positive line on your antigen test? We all bear some responsibility in preventing the spread of COVID-19, and one inconclusive test result could be the difference between an individual isolating or infecting a large group of people. If you want to be absolutely sure that you won’t be the point of contagion before you return to regular activities, get the peace of mind you need with a confirmatory PCR test. And if you’re negative, return sooner with confidence!
Note: select states and Vault have teamed up to offer free at-home PCR saliva testing for any person who believes they need to be tested, with or without symptoms, at no cost to the patient. Check here to see if your state has this program available. Vault also offers saliva-based PCR testing through employers to keep workforces safe and direct-to-consumer.
DISCLAIMER: This article is for general information purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be relied upon for medical diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, dial 911 immediately.