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Am I still immune if I no longer have antibodies?

Sunday, March 21, 2021 – 02:00

We still do not know all the secrets of this coronavirus, but it is known that natural immunity is at least six months; that there are other cells capable of protecting us and that once the disease is overcome, only one dose will be needed

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After the initial shock, people who have overcome the coronavirus feel more or less relieved thinking that, at least, they now have the longed-for immunity. There are more than three million Spaniards who have already been able to enjoy this “relative” feeling of truce in the face of the virus since, as we all know, for now it is important to follow the same prevention measures. However, as the months go by, the questions begin: how long will I be immune? What if the antibodies on my test are gone? Can I “catch” it again? Although we still do not know all the secrets of the coronavirus, science is unmasking them and these are the answers to some of the questions that we all ask ourselves today.

How long does immunity last after having overcome the disease?

We do not know 100% what the average duration of immunity is after the disease has passed, but studies suggest that in most cases it is at least six months. Does this mean that after six months I can be infected again? It is possible to become infected again, but, in general, in these cases the infection is usually mild. In six months there is no “reset” that sends us back to the starting box. If this were the case, a year later, we would have in hospitals many people who suffered the disease in the first or second wave and who have come across the virus again on their way. And yet this is not happening in a generalized way. There are anecdotal cases in the world in which, to date, the second infection has been more serious than the first.

Antibodies no longer appear in the analysis. Have I lost my immunity?

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Those who have antibodies have a treasure and there are those who mourn their loss more than if they had lost a tooth. We must follow the same preventive measures, but without being overwhelmed. The disappearance of the antibodies (or even the fact that they have never appeared in the analysis despite having overcome the disease) may be due to several reasons. First, to the different detection techniques in laboratories.

These techniques can vary and it is foreseeable that they will improve over time. But even in the “worst case scenario”, in the event that the antibodies have been declining to finally disappear, we should not think that we are going through life “naked before the virus”. In this battle against the coronavirus, in addition to the famous antibodies, they also fight T cells. They are memory cells capable of destroying cells infected by the virus. These T cells may be more “long-lived” than antibodies and are believed to be even less vulnerable to mutations. Therefore, this would offer us some protection for a longer time.

Can I get tested to see if I have “T cells”?

I wish it were as easy as taking an antibody test, but unfortunately it is not possible. Detecting T cells requires a very laborious and expensive test that is not available to the general public. I know, put like this, believing in T cells is the closest thing to an act of faith: you have to believe without seeing. Assuming this right now, when what we all want is to see our immunity printed on a piece of paper with the seal and signature of the laboratory, it really is complicated. However, we must trust science and the results that are being seen in studies, which are very positive in this regard.

If I have already overcome the coronavirus … do I have to get vaccinated?

As we mentioned in the first question, it is estimated that immunity after overcoming the disease is at least six months. In this sense, and taking into account that we are short of vaccines, scientific societies recommend that during the time that they maintain their antibodies these people “save” their dose to the system. With these “extra doses” we will expand more quickly the percentage of vaccinated, which is the priority objective to end the virus. Those who have overcome the infection and temporarily renounce their doses will be able to get vaccinated later and we will have saved precious time.

If I am over the coronavirus … should I take a dose or two?

In these cases, as has been observed in several studies, a single dose is enough for people who have overcome the disease to have the same or higher immunity than those who have not yet been infected and take their two doses. In other words, the natural infection by the coronavirus would serve as the “first dose”.

Will we have to get vaccinated every year as we do with the flu virus?

We still do not know to what extent vaccines will be able to defend us against all the new variants. We have already observed that some of them significantly decrease their effectiveness, for example, against the South African variant. And, to put it bluntly, each virus is from your father and mother. While the flu virus mutates a lot and you have to create new vaccines every year, other viruses such as measles are more stable and, simply by getting vaccinated as a child, you will be served for life. It seems that the coronavirus is halfway there. It will not change its appearance like underwear, imitating its cousin with the flu, nor is it “for life” like the measles virus. It will mutate and booster doses may be required. It is also possible that over time we will get more complete vaccines, offering more lasting immunity.

Science, little by little, will continue to unmask the secrets of the coronavirus. In the meantime, let’s have patience, head … and mask.

According to the criteria of

The Trust Project

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