Omicron has the entire world questioning what they thought they knew about COVID-19.
The good news is that it seems to be milder than previous variants, and it also appears to be giving our immune systems a protective boost against those prior variants.
The bad news is that vaccinated as well as previously infected individuals have all been shocked to learn that they're not as immune as they once thought.
That being said, there's a lot of confusion going around about how many times we can get reinfected with COVID-19.
At the beginning of the pandemic, we were all hoping that if we got the virus once and recovered, we'd be immune for life.
Unfortunately, this is clearly not the case.
What we know about how many times you can get reinfected with COVID
Two years into the pandemic, and chances are that either you or someone you know has had COVID twice or has been vaccinated and still contracted the virus.
Vaccinated or not, the number of times you can get reinfected is unknown, but the severity of the infection will depend upon your unique level of protective immunity.
But how do you determine your level of protective immunity?
Many people think immunity testing is a simple process that starts with taking an antibody test obtained from your local pharmacy or walk-in clinic.
In other words, antibody tests are not the same as “immunity testing.”
Those tests merely tell you if you have antibodies. They will not tell you if you have a sufficient level of neutralizing antibodies, nor will they test the efficacy of those neutralizing antibodies to stop COVID in its tracks.
Measuring the strength of your immune response to a COVID-19 infection starts with measuring your neutralizing antibody (NAb) concentration.
NAbs prevent the virus from binding with your cells and replicating. NAbs are the antibodies that do all of the heavy lifting when it comes to fighting off COVID.
But not all NAbs bind perfectly with the spike protein of the virus in order to block it from attaching to the ACE2 receptor of your cells. This efficacy assessment can only be gained from a Surrogate Virus Neutralization Test (sVNT).
Why does reinfection happen?
Reinfection happens because immunity wanes over time and viruses mutate.
This does not mean antibodies and vaccines "don't work".
Whether your immunity stems from vaccination, prior infection, or both, you can expect your antibodies to drop off over time. For some, that can be almost immediately after the infection or injection. For others, antibody levels can remain high for 6-12 months or more.
In some recent tests we ran with the Anzu Immunity Profile, one person still had neutralizing antibodies in excess of 90% a full 12 months after vaccination; whereas another person dropped below 30% after only 6 months.
That is why we recommend managing immunity at an individual level rather than by a set of generic axioms meant to apply to everyone.
Because COVID-19 mutates so rapidly, it's hard for our immune systems to recognize the new variants and produce the right antibodies to defeat them.
It's also important to note that once infected, COVID-19 will stay in your system for about 30 days on average (or longer in older folks or those with severe illness), causing you to test positive for weeks after your symptoms are gone.
Fortunately, after about 5 days (or 24 hours with no fever) you are no longer contagious. So, even though you may still test positive for a while, there's not enough viral load left in your system for you to transmit it to others.
The best ways to protect yourself from reinfection
As we've learned, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the number of times you can get reinfected with COVID, but the odds of you getting reinfected reduce dramatically after a booster or an actual reinfection.
However, here are some general tips that will help protect you from reinfection:
- Follow local and national guidelines regarding social distancing, and wear appropriate masks where mandatory or where you have concerns about potential infectious contact with others.
- Practice good hygiene by washing your hands often, avoiding touching your face, and keeping surfaces clean.
- Stay home when you're sick. If you're feeling run down, stressed, or under the weather, take some time for self-care.
- Stay informed. Keep up with the latest news and research on COVID so that you can make educated decisions about your health.
And last, but certainly not least, regularly check your neutralizing antibodies.
You can do so with Anzu's FDA/EUA approved Immunity Profile sVNT.
With this test, you'll discover exactly how well-protected you are from serious illness with our patented system. The Immunity Profile will also reveal whether you’ve been recently exposed to the virus.
This information is extremely beneficial to helping you determine what your next steps should be.
We recommend retesting every 4-6 months to see how your immunity levels change, and our EVE patient app allows you to manage your test results, vaccine passport, and retest dates all at the tips of your fingers.
Find a testing center near you to learn how protected you are.
Interested in sVNT tests for your employees? Check out our free Immunity Score webinar to learn how you can implement an immunity passport system in the workplace to manage your employees’ immunity profiles.