Can you be infected with COVID-19 more than once?

  • There is at least one case in Japan that shows it’s possible
  • So far, COVID-19 hasn’t shown many mutations
  • Dr. Fauci said those who are immune should be OK during a second wave

While there is a growing amount of evidence that people can gain immunity to the coronavirus, those who do not become immune after recovering from COVID-19 still stand a chance of catching the virus a second time.

There is evidence which suggests catching the virus can produce immunity in survivors, but a recent case of repeat infection in Japan shows that there may be more nuance to COVID-19 immunity. 

Current models for developing immunity include becoming infected with the coronavirus and allowing antibodies to develop, making it difficult for an infection to take root again. At least, until the virus evolves. This is why new vaccines are developed each year for seasonal illnesses like the flu. So far, though, COVID-19 doesn’t seem to have mutated much, if at all. 

Serologic testing—which, according to the FDA, “detects the body’s immune response to the infection caused by the virus rather than detecting the virus itself”—is being employed to test for people who have recovered from coronavirus and have developed antibodies already. Meanwhile, confirmed cases of recovery are being used to formulate vaccines with donated plasma. These vaccines are still in testing and haven’t been made widely available to the public. 

However, Dr. Anthony Fauci, of the White House Coronavirus Taskforce, has said that people who develop immunity will likely retain that immunity during the virus’ second wave expected this fall. 

Sources: Al Jazeera, Harvard Health, The Hill, New York Times, FDA

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