In this day and age, being a Covid-19 survivor is quite a big deal. Imagine that you lived through a pandemic and are now feeling indestructible. Clearly, you won’t get it again, right; especially after getting the vaccination?
Well, sorry to break it to you, but that’s not quite the case. Experts state that just because you’ve already contracted the virus once, it does not mean you won’t get it again. In fact, if you’ve had Covid-19 previously and are still unvaccinated, your chances of getting reinfected increase.
Although reinfection cases are not yet very common, there is a huge risk that you can get Covid twice. Give this article a thorough read to find out all that we know about reinfection.
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Why Can You Get COVID Twice?
Cleveland Clinic’s pediatric infectious disease specialist, Dr. Frank Esper, MD, says that reinfections are now at an all time high as compared to when the pandemic started. According to him, there are several reasons why people can get Covid twice. Let’s look at a few:
Covid-19 has been here for quite some time now: In December 2021, there were more than 50 million Covid-19 cases in America as compared to the start of the pandemic. “At this point, many of those infections happened months ago or more than a year ago,” Dr. Esper says. “The immunity from those initial infections begins to wane over time.”
Vaccination immunity decreases with time: Doctors and researchers observed that immunity diminished in people who got vaccinated as early as 2020. Due to this, it’s crucial to get your booster shots.
People are no longer as careful as they were before: It’s been two years since we’re living in this pandemic-ridden world. The public is very indifferent to it now. No longer are they cautious about following public health measures like wearing masks, washing hands, and social distancing.
New variants are more infectious: The mutated Covid-19 variants are extra-contagious and deadly. Dr. Esper explains that “these variants are able to overcome some of the existing immunity people developed via vaccination or a previous infection.”
How Soon Can You Get Covid After Your First Infection?
You won’t immediately get Covid-19 after your first infection. It’ll take some time because infections lead to the production of antibodies in your system – quite like how vaccinations work.
These antibodies keep the SARS-CoV-2 virus at bay. The cellular memory of the infection and neutralising antibodies are the strongest after an infection. Hence, this type of immunity tends to be the most powerful.
Advisor for the World Health Organization on COVID-19, epidemiologist Mary-Louise McLaws, says that even if you have weak immunity, you can’t get reinfected with any variant within three months of recovery. “With Omicron and Delta, we’re probably not going to have our antibodies forever,” she says.
“Someone who has been vaccinated previously and then gets an Omicron infection effectively gets their immunity ‘boosted’ by infection in a similar way to a third dose of vaccine,” says Professor Miles Davenport, head of the Kirby Institute’s Infection Analytics Program.
He further states that “infection with one variant generally provides a degree of protection from other variants. Therefore, infection with Omicron will provide the strongest protection against [reinfection with] Omicron — but also weaker protection against other variants.”
According to the NHS website, an individual must self-isolate even if they’ve been Covid-19 positive before. “You probably have some immunity to the virus but it’s not clear how long it lasts,” the NHS said. So, it’s important for a person with symptoms to immediately get a PCR test.
Can You Blame New Covid-19 Variants for Reinfections?
New Covid-19 variants are actually the main reason for reinfection. The virus is constantly mutating, so your immune system cannot recognize it. The worst part is that these new mutations are alarmingly stronger than the previous one.
The CDC reveals that the Delta variant is almost twice as infectious as past variants. Moreover, after a surge in the Omicron variant, researchers found that this mutant virus was more contagious than Delta.
Scientists are still unsure about whether an individual can get reinfected by the same strain or not. But, most state that you can remain immune for a year or two.
It might come as a surprise to know that the coronavirus doesn’t mutate as much as the flu, which modifies itself almost every year. This, however, doesn’t mean that you should be careless regarding safety precautions.
“This variant’s infectiousness — including its ability to evade immune systems and prevent long-lasting immunity for those people who are infected with it — is one of the reasons why it’s been able to persist and come back,” Dr. Esper explains.
One thing we know for sure is that it’s the nature of a virus to mutate. So, Covid-19 will never be the same. There’s also a possibility for an individual’s protective immune response to wane off over time after their first infection. Due to this, there’s a possibility of witnessing more reinfections in the future.
Final Thoughts – Will There Be More Reinfection Cases in the Future?
The rarity of Covid-19 reinfections does not mean that they’re impossible. Our immune response to the virus and vaccination decreases over time. This, coupled with the entry of new variants, means that our chances of getting coronavirus again increase.
It is important to remember that getting vaccinated and following public health measures are necessary to keep you and others safe. So, don’t forget to get that jab, or a booster shot, in case you were previously vaccinated!