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Q: I got COVID-19 and recovered. How long does immunity last?

Studies have found that people who've been infected with COVID-19 do develop some natural immunity. However, that immunity doesn't provide complete protection, and it won't last forever.

Several studies have found that people who've been infected with COVID-19 continue to produce antibodies to the virus for seven or eight months after recovery, which is a good sign immunity should last for a while. At some point after that, however, it's likely that immunity will start to wane. While scientists still don't know how long immunity will last, studies suggest it could protect you from reinfection anywhere from three months to five years.

Natural immunity also may not offer much protection against COVID variants different from the one you were infected with. It is also important to point out that new variants are likely to emerge over time, and until we have enough data available, we aren’t able to say how contagious new variants will be and how protective any natural immunity (from a previous infection) may be against that specific variant.

The bottom line is that getting COVID does give you some natural immunity, but it doesn't mean you have complete, lasting protection. That's why doctors still recommend you get fully vaccinated, wear a mask, and take other precautions like social distancing, even if you've already had COVID. And remember, even though masks are no longer required in most public places, you should still use common sense about mask wearing. For example, you might consider wearing a mask when you are in large public indoor gatherings, or around others who may be sick. At Maui Health, masks are still required at all times while inside our facilities. Remember, COVID-19 is still all around us, so don’t let your guard down.

Michael J. Shea , MD

Critical Care Medicine

Maui Memorial Medical Center
221 Mahalani Street
Wailuku, HI 96793