New Study Reveals Unvaccinated People Can Catch COVID Multiple Times
A study from researchers at Yale University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte found that, on average, unvaccinated people should expect to be reinfected with COVID-19 every 16 to 17 months.
The researchers, led by Jeffrey Townsend, a Yale professor of biostatistics, and his team analyzed known reinfection and immunological data from the close viral relatives of SARS-CoV-2 that cause “common colds” — along with immunological data from SARS-CoV-1 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. Leveraging evolutionary principles, the team was able to model the risk of COVID-19 reinfection over time.
The findings contradict the notion that recovering from COVID-19 will guarantee a lifetime of protection from the virus.
The study looked at post-infection data from six coronaviruses that are close relatives to COVID-19, dating as far back as 1984.
The time period following infection ranged from 128 days to 28 years under endemic conditions, meaning that the disease is constantly found in a population.
Using that data, researchers were able to estimate the reinfection time for unvaccinated people – roughly 16 months on average. That’s less than half the time it takes to get reinfected by other coronaviruses transmitted by humans, they found.
The authors were then able to interpret the findings of the study, saying, “The timeframe for reinfection is fundamental to numerous aspects of public health decision making. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, reinfection is likely to become increasingly common.
Maintaining public health measures that curb transmission—including among individuals who were previously infected with SARS-CoV-2—coupled with persistent efforts to accelerate vaccination worldwide is critical to the prevention of COVID-19 morbidity and mortality.”
“A hallmark of the modern world is going to be the evolution of new threats to human health,” said Townsend.
“Evolutionary biology — which provided the theoretical foundations for these analyses — is traditionally considered a historical discipline.
However, our findings underscore its important role in informing decision-making, and provide a crucial stepping stone toward robust knowledge of our prospects of resistance to SARS-CoV-2 reinfection.”
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