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New data shows coronavirus immunity might last longer than we thought

how long does coronavirus immunity last
Photo via NIAID/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

New research published Nov. 16 indicates coronavirus immunity could last years in people who are infected and recover. The study, though not yet peer-reviewed, could be an encouraging sign in the ongoing global fight against the pandemic. Although previous research showed immunity might only last a few months, the newest study provides a new answer to the question of how long coronavirus immunity lasts.

According to the New York Times, the study indicated that even eight months after infection, most people still had enough immune cells to fend off the virus and prevent illness. That report also noted that the new research is the most comprehensive and long-ranging study of coronavirus immunity memory to date.

“That amount of memory would likely prevent the vast majority of people from getting hospitalized disease, severe disease, for many years,” Shane Crotty, a virologist at the La Jolla Institute of Immunology who co-led the new study, told the newspaper.

That study’s findings corroborate what we know about SARS, a disease caused by a different coronavirus than the COVID-19 variant. Even 17 years after recovery from SARS, those patients still carry important immune cells for warding off new infections.

The article also notes that other studies are publishing findings that show evidence of immunity responses from those infected with COVID-19.

The study published Nov. 16 involved 185 COVID-19 cases, including 41 cases in people who had been infected six or more months prior, according to U.S. News and World Report. A small number of recovered participants did not have long-lasting immunity.

The Times article, however, noted that vaccines can mitigate that individual variability in immunity development.

“That will help in focusing the response, so you don’t get the same kind of heterogeneity that you would see in an infected population,” noted Jennifer Gommerman, an immunologist at the University of Toronto.

The report comes in the same month that two different vaccine developers, Moderna and Pfizer, are claiming at or near 95% effectiveness in clinical trials for coronavirus vaccines in progress.

Sources: BioRxiv, New York Times, U.S. News and World Report


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