November 25, 2020
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Coronavirus Immunity May Last For At Least Six Months, Oxford Study Finds

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Topline

People who contract coronavirus are “highly unlikely” to get the virus again for at least six months, according to a new study from the University of Oxford, pointing to a potential breakthrough in research on Covid-19 immunity after more than 57 million people have had coronavirus since the start of the pandemic. 

A doctor taking a nasal swab from a driver

Someone waits to be tested for coronavirus.

Getty

Key Facts

The study, a collaboration between the University of Oxford and Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust that is yet to be peer-reviewed, evaluated 12,180 health care workers at Oxford University Hospitals for 30 weeks from April to November.

The researchers tested the health care workers for antibodies to see if they had been infected and continued to frequently test staff for coronavirus while evaluating if the group of employees who had already contracted coronavirus had the same number of reinfections as the group who did not have the virus before. 

They found 89 of the 11,052 employees without antibodies contracted coronavirus and had symptoms, while none of the 1,246 employees with the antibodies developed a new infection with symptoms. 

Employees with the antibodies were also less likely to contract coronavirus without symptoms and the three who tested positive did not develop coronavirus symptoms. 

Based on the results, the researchers concluded that a majority of people are unlikely to get coronavirus again for at least six months and people without antibodies are more likely to contract the virus. 

The researchers said they will continue to collect data to understand the full duration of protection from being reinfected. 

Crucial Quote

“This is really good news, because we can be confident that, at least in the short term, most people who get COVID-19 won’t get it again,” Professor David Eyre of the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Population Health, one of the authors of the paper, said in a statement. “We know from a previous study that antibody levels fall over time, but this latest study shows that there is some immunity in those who have been infected.”

Big Number

57,076,577. That is how many people have contracted coronavirus worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Nearly 1,400,000 people have died. There was a record 650,443 new daily cases on Thursday as cases have spiked in recent weeks and are now at the worst levels since the pandemic started. 

Tangent

The University of Oxford and AstraZeneca on Wednesday said their coronavirus vaccine is safe and produces a strong immune response for older adults based on interim data from a 560-person trial. The results were the same for younger adults and the 240 adults age 70 and older who are more likely to become very ill from the virus. As the study’s lead author, University of Oxford Professor Andrew Pollard wrote, older adults often have a poorer response to vaccines because the immune system weakens with age, so it is promising that the early data showed comparable results. 

Further Reading

Prior COVID-19 infection offers protection from re-infection for at least six months (Oxford University Hospitals) 

Oxford Covid-19 Vaccine Induces ‘Robust’ Immune Response In Older Adults, Early Findings Show (Forbes)

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