NEWS 1130 is working hard to get you the information you need about the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are responding to your questions in a segment we call NEWS 1130 Gets Answers.
If you’ve had the virus can you get it again?
If you’ve had the virus can you get it again? I heard it’s mutating…
— BlueLivesAlways (@bluelinetime) April 23, 2020
The question of whether recovered COVID-19 patients retain antibodies that prevent them from getting the illness a second time is key to how we fight the virus and ease restrictions in the coming months.
Some experts have floated the idea of issuing “immunity passports” to people who have recovered from COVID-19 that would allow them to return to travel and return to work. This would allow the economy to begin re-opening while keeping still-vulnerable people safe in lockdown.
But the World Health Organization said “there is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection,” in a scientific brief. While studies show people who have recovered do have antibodies to the virus, some people have “very low levels” of the antibodies needed to neutralize the virus, the WHO said in the brief.
On Friday, the WHO deleted a Tweet with a link to the brief saying there was “no evidence” for such immunity. The organization later revised the thread, noting the original had “caused some concern.”
“We expect that most people who are infected with #COVID19 will develop an antibody response that will provide some level of protection,” the WHO tweeted. “What we don’t yet know is the level of protection or how long it will last.”
What we don’t yet know is the level of protection or how long it will last. We are working with scientists around the world to better understand the body’s response to #COVID19 infection. So far, no studies have answered these important questions. pic.twitter.com/DisLjWCa4U
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) April 25, 2020
The lack of evidence for post-infection immunity makes it hard to guarantee the accuracy of immunity passports, according to the brief.
“People who assume that they are immune to a second infection because they have received a positive test result may ignore public health advice. The use of such certificates may therefore increase the risks of continued transmission.”