Reinfection with COVID in Unvaccinated Individuals

Reinfection with COVID in Unvaccinated Individuals


As per a paper published in The Lancet Microbe, individuals unvaccinated against COVID-19 may expect reinfection with the Coronavirus every 16 to 17 months on average.

Since COVID-19 has not been around for long enough to allow for extensive studies; researchers at Yale University and North Carolina University assessed the reinfection data regarding six other types of coronavirus that infect people, including SARS and MERS.

 Researcher Prof. Jeffrey Townsend stated the possibility of a “repeated infection within three months or less”, adding that, “naturally-infected individuals should be vaccinated; since the previous infection alone fails to provide sufficient long-term protection.”

The team of researchers assessed the data on six different types of coronavirus for the period between the years 1984 and 2020; to find that reinfection occurs in 128 days to 28 years. Moreover, they calculated the reinfection times for COVID-19, finding that it occurs within 16 months on average; and within 3 months to 5 years once the highest antibody response has been achieved. This period is shorter than half the duration calculated for other non-COVID-19 types of coronavirus transmittable to people.

The research also showed that, while the reinfection risk for COVID-19 is 5% in the first three months, it goes up to 50% after 17 months. The researchers stress that reinfection may become more and more common, with decreasing immunity levels, and new variants coming into circulation.

They mention that it would be a better course of action to “focus on the reinfection risk over time, rather than worrying if we are immune enough.”

They state: “With the new variants, the previous immunity responses become less and less effective against the virus. The risk of reinfection is on the increase for people naturally infected in the early pandemic.”

Period estimations in the research are based on the average periods when the levels of immunity against other types of coronavirus are visually lowered. Immunity periods of individuals may vary, depending on the level of immunity in their society, their age, their underlying health conditions, their environmental exposure status, along with other factors.

Researchers state that preventive health measures and the global implementation of vaccination applications are “critical” in minimizing the risks of reinfection and mortality due to COVID-19. For example, vaccinated individuals residing in regions where the rate of vaccination is low must continue exercising safety precautions such as social distancing, wearing face masks, and providing appropriate ventilation in closed spaces, against the risk of reinfection.

We have to remember that we currently lack the long-term immunity, an element of hope for many people wishing for a form of protection, against a disease that may remain in circulation for longer.