If you’ve recently gotten over COVID, you might be wondering how long you’re protected from getting sick again. Even minor infections may be highly disruptive and uncomfortable, so you may be glad to have some immunity to the virus, at least temporarily. However, COVID immunity is not always consistent—it varies depending on the cause of immunity (vaccines vs. previous infections), as well as the presence of different variants of the virus, such as the Omicron variant. Below is a closer look at what we know about COVID immunity.
COVID Immunity from Previous Infections
The best protection from future infections comes from a combination of vaccination and a previous infection. The more recently you had COVID, the better protected you are. However, if you have gotten sick and not had the vaccine, don’t assume that you are adequately protected from a previous infection. All eligible individuals should have a full series of vaccines and a booster shot to gain the fullest protection possible. Hybrid immunity from both the vaccine and a previous infection can last for at least eight months.
COVID Immunity from Vaccines
One key difference between vaccine-based immunity and infection-based immunity is the presence of mucosal antibodies in the nasal cavity. Vaccines allow the body to develop antibodies in the blood, but a previous infection provides an added shield of antibodies in the respiratory system. Vaccines alone fall short when it comes to immunity, offering only about four months of protection. Still, being vaccinated can reduce the risk of severe COVID cases resulting in hospitalization.
An Evolving Virus
Immunity naturally wanes over time, but that effect can become much more pronounced as the virus mutates. The Omicron era demonstrated how steeply immunity can decline with rapid mutation of the virus, especially immunity from the vaccine alone.
As COVID continues to evolve and spread, it is important to remain vigilant about precautions to keep yourself healthy and well, including wearing masks in high-risk environments, frequent hand-washing, and staying isolated when you are sick (and encouraging others to do the same). If you have any COVID symptoms, getting a screening right away can help you determine whether you may benefit from antiviral treatments that can reduce the severity of the illness and help you get better faster. Walmart Health Virtual Care can provide the care and screening you need, while you remain safely at home.