Public Health England researchers found 44 potential COVID reinfections among 6,614 participants
People who have had COVID-19 gain some immunity to the coronavirus for several months but are still able to get reinfected and transmit the virus, according to a new study from the UK.
The Public Health England (PHE) Siren report shows that the antibodies from past COVID-19 infections can potentially provide 83% protection from the virus for at least five months.
Putting this figure into context, the Pfizer and Moderna coronavirus vaccines give 95% and 94% protection respectively, while the Oxford jab shows 70% efficacy.
This comes after the NHS is considering plans to discharge it’s patients into hotels as the nation’s hospitals become packed with COVID-19 patients, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has now confirmed, saying that it was “impossible to know” how long the nation-wide lockdown restrictions might last.
The numbers were small, but the PHE researchers found 44 potential COVID-19 reinfections among 6,614 participants who had shown evidence of previous coronavirus infection.
Early evidence can also suggest that a small number of the people with antibodies may still be able to carry and transmit COVID-19.
Public Health England is reinforcing its message to the British Public of “stay home, save lives” as a result.
Professor Susan Hopkins, the strategic response director for COVID-19 at PHE said the study had provided the “clearest picture to date of the nature of antibody protection”.
“We now know that most of those who have had the virus, and developed antibodies, are protected from reinfection,” she said.
“But this is not total and we do not yet know how long protection lasts. Crucially, we believe people may still be able to pass the virus on.
“This means even if you believe you already had the disease and are protected, you can be reassured it is highly unlikely you will develop severe infections but there is still a risk that you could acquire an infection and transmit to others.
“Now more than ever it is vital we all stay at home to protect our health service and save lives.”
This comes after Prof Chris Whitty has urged the British public to minimise all unnecessary contact with other people. The next few weeks, before the rollout of vaccines nation-wide, will be the “most dangerous time” of the pandemic for the NHS, England’s chief medical officer has said.
Consultant virologist at Leicester Royal Infirmary, Professor Julian Tang, has said that the vaccine responses would form extra protection from the coronavirus.
“Your natural infection is like your first dose of the vaccine,” he said.
“Like a prime dose of the vaccine and then that’s boosted by the first dose, so you may have had like two equivalent doses of exposure to the virus to stimulate your immunity.
“And the reverse is true, if you got the vaccine first and then you have exposure in the community to the virus that’s almost like a booster for that vaccine.”