How long does immunity last once you’ve had COVID? –

While reinfections do occur after a person recovers from COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of reinfection is reportedly low for a period of time following recovery from the initial infection. (Tom Wrobleski/Staten Island Advance)
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Once you’ve recovered from a coronavirus (COVID-19) infection, do you have immunity from future infections? And if so, how long will that immunity last?
That’s a complex question, currently being investigated by medical researchers, but it is known for certain that our immune system — a complex network of cells and tissues that work together to protect the body from infection — is hard at work post-infection, using antibodies to protect us from future illness.
And while reinfections do occur after a person recovers from COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the risk of reinfection is reportedly low for a period of time following recovery from the initial infection.
For at least the first six months following an infection with the virus that causes COVID-19 diagnosed by a laboratory test, that risk is reportedly quite low, according to CDC studies.
Immunity from infection does not, however, last as long as the immunity provided by vaccination, medical experts and the CDC reported.
And while the immunity provided by vaccine and prior infection are both high, they are not complete (100%), the agency reported.
Other viruses
Recovery from many viral infectious diseases is followed by a period of infection-induced immunologic protection against reinfection, the CDC stated.
This phenomenon occurs with many respiratory viral infections, including the flu. Yet, it the immunity does eventually wane, making individuals once-again susceptible to reinfection.
When reinfections do happen, having antibodies helps prevent severe illness, hospitalization and death, according to studies reported by the CDC.
Immunity duration varies by the severity of the COVID symptoms experienced, some studies have found.
One such study found that for at least two to three months following infection, people with moderate-to-severe COVID-19 illness had higher titers of antibodies than people with mild illness, with differences persisting for five to eight months following infection, the CDC reported.
Vulnerable populations
Certain populations, such as the elderly and immunocompromised, may experience lower levels of protection following infection, the CDC said.
“I would advise people who are vulnerable, who would be above age 65, or have co-morbidities … diabetes, lung problems, cancer on chemotherapy, or those on medications that suppress the immune system … They would be better off taking precautions,’’ said Dr. Jessie Saverimuttu, chair of the Infection Control Committee at Richmond University Medical Center. “If they’re moving in a crowded place, they could succumb to it. It is in their best interest to wear the mask.”
Those planning to spend time with compromised individuals should test for COVID beforehand, and keep a safe social distance and wear a mask if they have cold symptoms, regardless of whether or not they’ve recently had COVID, according to doctors.
Vaccination recommended
The CDC continues to recommend COVID-19 vaccination, including for those who have previously been infected with the coronavirus.
Most studies comparing risk of reinfection among previously infected individuals who were never vaccinated versus individuals who were vaccinated after infection show a benefit of vaccination, the CDC reported.
Keep in mind, though, that at this time there is no FDA-authorized or approved test that reliably determines whether a person is protected from infection.
It varies by variants
A person infected with one COVID-19 variant is immune to that variant for a period of time, top Staten Island infectious disease specialists said. But that person isn’t immune to other COVID-19 variants, according to Saverimuttu.
They would be immune to close variants, Saverimuttu said.
“But, if it has mutated from the one that you had, and it’s a major difference, your body cannot fight it,’’ she told the Advance. “You will not be immune to a different strain. You will not fight it.”
Depending on when you had COVID, a person will be immune to that strain and any strain closely related to it, said Dr. Thomas Gut, director of the Post-COVID Recovery Center and associate chairman of medicine at Staten Island University Hospital.
“Now, because Omicron is so different, many of the people who had the strains beforehand didn’t have any protection from Omicron.”
That’s why the newer Bivalent vaccine was needed, Gut said. “It’s been updated to better protect against Omicron,’’ he said.
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