Evidence shows that people who have contracted coronavirus have temporary immunity, but it’s unclear for how long.
Like most other viruses, contracting and recovering from coronavirus produces antibodies which protect you from contracting the virus again.
However, isolated cases in which people have contracted coronavirus twice suggest that immunity doesn’t last indefinitely.
How long does immunity from coronavirus last?
There have been a number of studies looking at immunity from coronavirus, and most vary in their conclusions about how long it lasts for those who have been infected.
A recent study from Public Health England, (PHE) published January 14, found that immunity in people who had been infected appeared to last for at least five months from the initial infection.
The immunity provided by infection was found to offer an 83 per cent protection against reinfection.
The study was carried out through regular testing of tens of thousands of health care workers across the UK, using tests for detecting coronavirus, as well as antibody tests to determine whether the person had previously been infected.
If I have immunity, is it safe to mix with others?
While scientists have found that being infected with the virus offers a level of protection from reinfection, reinfection is certainly not impossible - with a potential 44 reinfections detected in the study out of 6,614 participants tested for antibodies.
The good news about reinfections was that less than a third of those reinfected had symptoms upon the second infection, compared with 78 per cent the first time around.
With immunity estimated to last at least five months, people who caught the virus during the first wave in early 2020 may now be vulnerable to catching the virus again.
PHE also cautioned against those who have already been infected against mixing socially with others, saying that, although they may be temporarily protected from re-contracting the virus, early evidence suggests that it is still possible to be carrying high levels of the virus which could be passed along to others.
This is why it is crucial to continue following coronavirus rules and guidelines by staying at home - even if you have previously contracted the virus.
Should I still get the vaccine if I’ve had coronavirus?
Because of findings indicating that it is possible to contract coronavirus twice, experts are advising that you should still get the vaccine even if you have been previously infected with the virus.
One of the benefits of vaccine immunity is that they’ve gone through trials to determine how well a standard dose prevents disease.
This means they offer more certainty of protection - as opposed to immunity through infection, which is difficult to measure due to variables like age, viral load and genetic makeup.
There is no evidence that giving the vaccine to someone who has already been infected will do any harm.
“There is no harm in giving the vaccine to a person who has had the disease – it will act as a booster,” Deborah Dunn-Walters, professor of immunology at the University of Surrey and chair of the taskforce on immunology and Covid-19 told The Guardian.