The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has disrupted everyone’s lives, from buying groceries to our jobs. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are over 30 million confirmed cases of COVID-19. As the number goes up every day, we’re left wondering: if I got infected, how long am I immune?
Most people have agreed to the notion of herd or community immunity and put so much faith in it. They believe that the virus will no longer spread when most of the population has caught it and built immunity. However, this notion is half of the whole definition.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), herd immunity is achieved “through vaccination and/or prior illness.” Moreover, to have community immunity, a percentage of the population needs to be vaccinated.
Researchers calculate this percentage using the reproductive rate of infection of the virus. Also, it is affected by how contagious the disease is and how it’s transmitted. However, scientists noted that other coronaviruses like SARS and MERS do not make a lasting immune response.
A new study on anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies has contradicted the notion of herd immunity. According to the research, individuals who were positive for anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies tested negative after two months.
The study was done to the healthcare staff at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, who had regular contact with adult patients. These antibodies were vital to our body’s ability to counteract the virus, especially those who are mildly or seriously ill. There are other studies previously made that have the same conclusion as the study. One of these researches found out that less than 10% of the population have a viable immunity from the coronavirus.
The study, together with other research, has also proved that reinfection is plausible. If the COVID-19 is both deadlier and more transmissible, it would be more adaptable to our immune response.
On the other hand, researchers and scientists are still working towards a safe and effective vaccine to fight COVID-19. There are currently 198 vaccines in development, nine of them are in Phase 3, meaning they’re in large-scale efficacy trials. Governments around the world have created health and safety protocols due to the number of vaccines currently formulated.
However, there’s no assurance that a vaccine will bring us back to our everyday lives. Even with the most favorable ones, we can’t know for sure that they will perpetually prevent anyone from being infected. At most, a vaccine will only lessen the severity of the symptoms or give short-term protection.
With the recent study, we cannot rely on natural immunity to keep us safe from the coronavirus. The study also implies that there are still inconsistencies, thus grounding us on the same control and containment protocols. We need to do evidence-based public safety and health measures while there is still no vaccine.