4 Must-Know Facts About Immunity To COVID-19

by Kroger Health Staff

Last Updated: May 13, 2020

While the urgent quest for a COVID-19 vaccine continues, other scientists are researching the antibody response to the virus. Immunity is now seen as an end-point to the pandemic, but having antibodies is not necessarily the same as being immune to the virus. Here are four things to know about antibodies and potential immunity to COVID-19:
  1. We don’t know how long COVID-19 antibodies last.
    Most people infected with COVID-19 develop antibodies in response to the infection. An antibody test is a blood test that will detect a type of protein that shows a patient’s immune system has fought COVID-19 in the past and could be developing immunity. But scientists don’t know if the antibodies will last a lifetime, years or just a few months. If COVID-19 antibodies are similar to the measles, immunity could last a lifetime, but if they mimic antibodies for the common cold, the disease could return repeatedly throughout one’s life.
  2. Not all antibodies protect against re-infection.
    Some antibodies protect our bodies, and others enhance the disease and make the illness worse. Early studies suggest that COVID-19 triggers the type of antibodies that protect against future infections, but more research is needed.
  3. Antibody tests can deliver false positives.
    A false positive means that the test mistakenly signaled antibodies in someone who doesn’t have them. On the other hand, false negatives lead people to believe they don’t have antibodies when they truly do. While there are many tests out there, the FDA has only approved a small number, and accuracy of others may not be known. Americans are hoping to end their lockdowns by taking the antibody tests, and public health experts are wondering if those shown to have antibodies might be allowed to return to work. But if the tests aren’t accurate, these tactics are doomed to fail.
  4. It will take time before we have a definite answer about immunity.
    Researchers need time to track to know if immunity exists, how long it may last, and if people can still spread the virus after they have recovered from COVID. Many studies are ongoing and will continue, but unfortunately these results will take time.

Antibody tests with FDA approval are slowly becoming available across the country. Contact your healthcare provider for more information, and monitor CDC resources for the latest information.

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.