COVID-19 infection can give immunity for at least five months; people with antibodies can still spread infection, says UK study
The preliminary findings at Public Health England showed that reinfection in people who have COVID-19 antibodies from the past infection is rare, with only 44 cases found among the 6,614 infected people.
But scientists cautioned that these findings indicate that people who contracted the virus in the first wave of the pandemic in early 2020 may now be vulnerable to catching the infection again.
The study also warned that people who acquired immunity through having infection may still be carrying the SARS-CoV-2 virus in their nose and throat and can pass it on unknowingly.
“We now know that most of those who have had the virus, and developed antibodies, are protected from reinfection, but this is not total and we do not yet know how long protection lasts,” said Susan Hopkins, senior medical adviser at PHE and co-leader of the study, whose findings were published on Thursday.
“This means even if you believe you already had the disease and are protected, you can be reassured it is highly unlikely you will develop severe infections. But there is still a risk you could acquire an infection and transmit (it) to others.”
The study does not mention anything about the antibody and other immune responses to the vaccine now being rolled out in people who have already caught the infection.
The study involved tens of thousands of healthcare workers in Britain who have been tested regularly since June for the new COVID-19 infection as well as the presence of the antibodies.
The 44 people who got reinfected among the 6614 people indicate that 83 per cent of the people are protected from reinfection.
But it’s still crucial for everyone to follow the recommended hygiene rules, even if they have previously got the infection.