What Is The Latest On COVID-19 Immunity?

by Kroger Health Staff

Last Updated: December 7, 2020

How long do COVID-19 survivors have immunity to the coronavirus?

Recent studies on dropping neutralizing antibodies in the blood caused concern that immunity to COVID-19 may disappear in a few months, leaving people vulnerable to a repeat infection of the virus. But antibodies are just one part of the immune system, and researchers say it is natural for antibody levels to drop after clearing an infection. While some initial studies showed immunity only lasts a few months, the latest research is more hopeful and shows immunity likely lasts much longer.

What exactly does immunity mean? Immunity is resistance gained through the body’s exposure to disease either through infection or vaccination. The immune system has two ways to protect the body. First, T cells remember a past infection and initiate a protective response when re-encountering the infection. Second, B cells produce antibodies to fight a specific pathogen. But immunity doesn’t always mean total protection from infection.

A promising new study analyzed multiple parts of immune memory over time: B cells, T cells, antibodies, and other immune memory features. The researchers studied 185 COVID-19 survivors in the United States, ranging in age from 19-81. The research looked at blood samples collected at various points following the onset of symptoms. The majority of patients had mild symptoms and were not hospitalized. The research shows durable immunity against COVID-19 is a possibility in most individuals. In the study, eight months after infection, most people who have recovered have enough immune cells to fend off the virus and prevent illness. The slow rate of decline suggests immunity may last for years. While hopeful, the research has not been peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal.

In a small study, another set of researchers found potentially important determinants of immune protection. They study found that some COVID-19 survivors have protective immune cells that remain powerful and protective long after disease-fighting antibodies are no longer detectable. Immune cells carry a memory of the virus and can produce fresh antibodies to fight a virus if needed.

As we continue to learn more everyday, people who have recovered from COVID-19 should still follow all recommended guidelines and take steps to protect themselves, including wearing masks, frequently washing hands, and practicing social distancing.

If you think you may have been exposed to the coronavirus in the past, but were not able to access testing at that time, Kroger Health is now offering affordable and convenient antibody testing at pharmacy locations across the country. Visit https://www.kroger.com/health/pharmacy/covid-care to learn more.

Disclaimer: The information in this story is accurate as of its publication. However, the situation surrounding COVID-19 is ever-evolving. We are working to keep our stories up-to-date as changes occur, but we also encourage everyone to check news and recommendations from the CDC, WHO, and their local authorities.