Herd immunity may not be viable against COVID-19, a new study suggested Saturday. Data indicate that natural protection from coronavirus only lasts a few months. The bodies of COVID patients produce antibodies to fight the virus. After a few days though, it declines. Our bodies create antibodies, or proteins, to fight infections.
Bleak News from Another COVID-19 Study
CNN reports that antibody decline comes “20 to 30 days after COVID-19 symptoms emerge.” A team of researchers in the United Kingdom did the research. They also wrote the paper, yet to appear in a peer-reviewed journal. COVID-19 symptoms can also worsen, depending on your immune response. From the Center for Disease Control Website, your body usually takes “one to three weeks after infection” to produce antibodies.
This research follows an early warning from the World Health Organization. It warned people that you can always get COVID-19 again, even after treatment. None of us are “necessarily immune.”
Researchers collected samples from 65 COVID-19 patients and 31 healthcare workers. They looked at the patients “94 days after they started showing symptoms.” Likewise, they studied healthcare workers who had antibody tests “every one or two weeks between March and June.”
However, CNN reports that more research is still needed to prove the data. They had to confirm if the same thing would happen to a bigger test group. Researchers would have to run the study for a longer time.
In their paper, the team wrote that their study could teach scientists about coming up with a vaccine for coronavirus.
Stephen Griffins confirmed in a press statement Monday that this new study is rigorous and sound. Its data are also critical. Griffins is an associate professor at the University of Leeds School of Medicine. He was not part of the UK research team.
Can We Still Make a Vaccine?
Griffins added that this new research is “very troubling.” Even though your body can fight the virus, it only does so for a month. If you are gravely ill, then the fight lasts longer. People in recovery can still be re-infected with coronavirus.
For scientists, this study could mean changing their vaccines. Griffins said that new vaccines have to be more powerful and last longer. They could also vaccinate more regularly.
Positive antibody counts also don’t matter as much. Your immune system can remember the virus if it infects you again. But this just means you will get a milder sickness.
Dr. Mala Maini said that we should not assume that we could not get COVID-19 again after recovery. Dr. Maini is a professor of viral immunology at University College London.
How We Can Protect Ourselves
According to WHO, there are 23 vaccine candidates under evaluation globally.
The new study also shows the difficulty of achieving short-term herd immunity. To protect ourselves from the virus, we still need to wash our hands and wear masks. We also have to follow physical distancing.