Earlier this year it was discovered that a previous coronavirus infection provides people with some level of immunity. It was unsure how long this protection would last, but researchers initially estimated it to be at least six months. But, before you go around believing that you’re safe, a recent government study suggests that this immunity isn’t long term, especially in the face of new variants.
Even residents with previous COVID infections should opt for vaccination
The research found that the protection provided from natural COVID infections varied from person to person and isn’t enough for a long-term safeguard, reinforcing the need for all residents to get vaccinated. Study author Dr Christina Dold, from the University of Oxford, explained:
We found that individuals showed very different immune responses from each other following COVID-19, with some people from both the symptomatic and asymptomatic groups showing no evidence of immune memory six months after infection or even sooner.
Dr Dold continued: ‘Our concern is that these people may be at risk of contracting COVID-19 for a second time, especially with new variants circulating.’
This means that it is very important that we all get the COVID vaccine when offered even if you think you may have previously had COVID-19.
90% of asymptomatic cases showed no measurable immune memory
The Pitch study involved experts from the University of Oxford, Liverpool, Sheffield, Newcastle and Birmingham, with the support of the UK Coronavirus Immunology Consortium (UK-CIC). Together researchers observed the immune responses of 78 healthcare workers with mild and asymptomatic coronavirus cases between April and June last year, as well as eight patients with severe cases for comparison.
Blood samples were taken from participants every month all the way up to six months post-infection. Samples suggested that 90% of asymptomatic participants had no measurable immune memory of the virus six months post-infection and would be unable to fight off both the Alpha and Beta COVID variants. Most of those who suffered a mild symptomatic infection were reported to have sufficient antibodies at the six-month mark, but almost a quarter did not.
The results, which are yet to be peer-reviewed, indicates the possibility that previous infections may not be enough to protect against existing and emerging strains of the virus, making immunisation all the more critical.
Vaccination invitations have now gone out to all those over 18, with over a million bookings made over the weekend. NHS England confirmed that 1,008,472 doses were booked on Friday and Sunday, working out to be over 21,000 every hour. The effort comes as the UK races against time to get as many adults as possible vaccinated before June 19th - the new target date for a complete relaxation of all COVID rules.