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How accurate are the tests?

  • PCR tests are 99% accurate. Therefore, the false positive rate of antigen testing should be close to zero.
  • For antigen tests, false negative results tend to occur more often than with PCR tests. This is why antigen tests are not favored by the FDA as a single test for active infection. Because antigen testing is quicker and requires less complex technology to perform than molecular testing, some experts recommend repeated antigen testing as a reasonable strategy.
  • Having an antibody test too early can lead to false negative results. That is due to the reasoning that it takes a week or two after infection for your immune system to produce antibodies. The reported rate of false negatives is 20%. However, the range of false negatives is from 0% to 30%, depending on the study and when in the course of infection the test is performed.
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