The latest news is that antibodies fade. This doesn’t mean that immunity fades, because T-cells may still act quickly to tackle a reinfection. But it’s harder to test for the T-cells. The difference between T-cells and antibodies is that antibodies attack the virus the minute it shows up, while T-cells attack once the virus invades a cell, but it would still be at the early stages of reinfection.
So, although we don’t know, it’s likely that there is less risk to a population that already recovered. But we don’t know who those people are, if they didn’t get tested within a relatively small window of time.
And if antibodies fade quickly then it also casts doubt on whether a vaccine will provide lasting protection. Does the vaccine promote a T cell response or just an antibody response? – I don’t know.
Since we failed so miserably in the US to test timely and sufficiently, our infection rate could be way understated. I have a co-worker who tested positive, for example, for an active infection in March with symptoms. She just got an antibody test and it was negative. I’ve also got two other co-workers who were sick with Covid like symptoms in February and got tested for antibodies in June. I was dying to know whether they had had it, but even though the results were both negative, it apparently doesn’t mean anything.
February may seem early to think that it was already in Georgia, but I heard a story from a friend who has a friend who was in the ICU in January, in Atlanta, with an unknown respiratory illness. Many of his co-workers were sick at that time, but he was the only one in the ICU. When you’re in the ICU, and they don’t know what you have, they apparently keep samples of your blood. They tested these samples recently and the results were positive for Covid. This is what I heard. If it’s true, I don’t know why it isn’t big news that this thing was in Georgia in January, but it’s not impossible.
My daughter tested positive for antibodies while everyone else in the family was negative. We assumed she had it before she came home from school, which would explain why no one else had it, but if her antibodies likely would have faded by now, maybe she had it more recently, and the rest of us had also had it, just less recently.
So the problem is, if we don’t know who’s had it, we can’t know when we have herd immunity, or even individual immunity. We can’t know when it’s safe to go about our business, or even who doesn’t need a vaccine, and if the protection won’t even last, what’s a vaccine good for? (sing it with me, “absolutely nothin’!”)
It may be that the only way we’re ever going to know that we’re safe again is when this thing just magically disappears on its own, like Donald Trump said it would, or said he hoped it would, cause all he can do is hope. He’s only the President. But he might end up right about this. It may at some point just go away, because so many people have had it that people just stop getting it.
But we can’t predict when that will be. We just have to wait, although, the more we open up, the faster we’ll get there.
All we know for sure is that the dead won’t get it again.