One of the most terrifying things about COVID-19 has been how much we don’t know about it. Scientists have been working around the clock for the past year trying to figure out how the virus works and how we can defeat it. One of the major questions we’ve all had is about whether you can be re-infected with COVID-19 if you’ve already had it. Luckily, we have some good news on this front. According to new research, COVID-19 infection grants immunity for about five months, reported CNN.
The study, which was released today by Public Health England — PHE — looked at data from over twenty thousand health care workers across the U.K.. PHE is an executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care in the United Kingdom, analogous to the Department of Health and Human Services in the U.S.. PHE tested and retested the participants from June to November, both for active infections and for antibodies to the virus, which suggest previous infection, CNN reported. Of the 21,000 participants, 6,614 had antibodies, and of those, only 44 developed possible new infections, which suggests that being infected with COVID-19 offers around an 83% level of protection against reinfection.
Because the study is ongoing and only represents a five month period, researchers can’t say for sure how long immunity may last, but they are hopeful. “This study gives further weight that reinfections of Covid is rare, at least at this stage, and that having antibodies will provide protection for a meaningful amount of time, although it may not be lifelong immunity," Simon Clarke, a professor of Cellular Microbiology at University of Reading, told CNN.
While this is definitely positive news, it doesn’t mean that people who have already had COVID-19 should stop obeying public health mandates. "The concerning finding is that some people who have Covid antibodies appear to still be able to carry the coronavirus and could spread it to others, Clarke told CNN.
What that means is that even though you may be, personally, less likely to get sick, you could still get other people sick. So the vast majority of the population will either need to have natural immunity or have been vaccinated for our lives to go back that elusive “normal” we’ve all been waiting for, Clark explained.
The study still leaves some questions unanswered. Because some people caught the virus in the first wave and the study is ongoing, we don’t know yet how long this immunity lasts. The study is also pending peer review, so while it does come to us from a reputable source, these findings will still need to be looked at by other scientists. Still, it’s hopeful news that people who may have been unlucky enough to catch COVID-19 the first time around won’t likely have to face the same dire situation twice.