COVID reinfection likely to become more common without variant-specific vaccines, experts say

CHICAGO (WLS) — Infectious disease specialists say COVID reinfection is likely to become increasingly common as the virus continues to mutate and our vaccines catch up.

“The variants appear to be very effective in evading immunity from previous infection,” said Dr Max Brito, UIC Health.

Chicago Bulls All Star Zach LaVine recently missed a playoff game due to his third fight with COVID. As in his case, reinfection is becoming increasingly common, even among people who were infected during the omicron surge.

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Experts say that while a previous infection gives you an initial antibody boost, with the omicron subvariants it doesn’t last long.

“You have the potential for new waves with lots of infections and decreasing vaccine protection,” Brito said.

A study from Rush University Medical Center tracked the antibody levels of 1,100 vaccinated employees and found that levels drop dramatically within six months after two doses.

“In six months we’ve lost 90% of those antibodies and those antibodies are measured against virus type and if you’re talking about antibodies against omicron it’s less than that,” said Dr James Moy, from Rush University Medical Center.

Moy said the levels go up with a booster, but there’s not enough data on the duration of immunity, especially against the subvariants.

“Unfortunately, it appears that COVID-19 has evolved to the point where it continues to infect us with new variants and new mutations,” he said.

Immunity provided by vaccines and infection wanes, but both have provided enough protection to keep people out of hospital for now. This may change in fall and winter.

Doctors say the only way to prevent people from getting infected or re-infected is with a new variant-specific vaccine. Pharmaceutical companies are currently conducting trials in hopes of having such a vaccine available within the next few months.

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