You might think you have some level of protection – invincibility, even – if you’ve already had coronavirus. However, increasing numbers of people are reporting a subsequent reinfection months or weeks apart. And it seems some may be more prone to getting it than others.
A large study which is still continuing to chart reinfection, React, swab-tested thousands of volunteers in England.
It found that some are more susceptible to being reinfected. The results, so far, revealed that healthcare workers and households where there are children or lots of people under one roof have increased risk of reinfection.
The study also revealed that two thirds of those who caught Omicron had previously had Covid.
Am I more likely to get if I’ve had Covid before?
No one is totally immune from getting Covid. And if you’ve had it before, you can get it again. One study found that people who have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 can expect to become reinfected within one or two years, unless they take precautions such as getting vaccinated and wearing masks.
But with new, more transmissible variants, people who have had Covid can get it much sooner than that, even if they are fully vaccinated and boosted.
As the React study showed, people living in multi-member households or key workers, might be especially susceptible – which goes some way to explaining why there are so many current cases among parents with school-age children.
If you don’t fall under these categories, you can expect some degree of immunity for a certain amount of time, commonly understood to be 90 days.
Will Covid be less severe the second time around?
This is where vaccines come in. It’s agreed by scientists all over the world that the vaccine offers some protection against severe symptoms. With many people inoculated against the virus, reinfection has been mild.
But of course, it does depend on the person. Virologist Jonathan Stoye of the Francis Crick Institute in London notes that the severity of Covid varies enormously from person to person, and might vary from infection to infection in the same person. Factors such as the initial dose of virus, possible differences between variants of the disease, the amount of viral load, and changes in a person’s overall health could all affect the severity of a reinfection.
Can I get Covid more than twice?
While a Covid infection does equip you with antibodies to fight the virus, getting Covid multiple times is not outside the realm of possibility. But the official line is to get vaccinated so that if you do get reinfected, you are likely to face less harsh symptoms and side effects.
At the moment general UK data doesn’t log reinfection, so it’s hard to tell how many people are experiencing it for the first time and for a subsequent time.
But this will change from the end of January when data collection will log this difference.