Speed Reads

Solving COVID

A U.K. study suggests an annual coronavirus booster shot may be necessary

Early this year, reports of people in South Korea testing positive for the coronavirus again after apparently recovering set off alarm bells. The concern largely subsided, however, when the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined the positive tests weren't reinfections.

Now, though, a new study from King's College in London suggests people may lose their COVID-19 immunity within months. The study analyzed the immune response of more than 90 patients and health-care workers, with blood tests revealing 60 percent developed a strong antibody response during their infections, but only 17 percent retained the same potency three months later. In some cases, antibody levels weren't detectable.

Along those lines, Vox reported a case in which a patient tested positive for the virus three months after their initial infection. While the doctor in the case noted it's possible a single infection lasted that long, he's doubtful. Plus, other coronaviruses that cause common colds don't lead to long-term immunity, so some experts think the novel virus is headed down that path.

The results of the study indicate it could be challenging to develop herd immunity or a one-and-done vaccine, but there are several important pieces of information to process. The King's College participants haven't been reinfected, so it's not a sure thing it can even happen. Similarly, the Vox anecdote is a may not be representative, and there haven't been similar reports out of countries hit by the virus earlier than the U.S.

Secondly, Prof. Robin Shattock of Imperial College London said even if reinfection is possible, subsequent cases would likely "be less severe" because people "will still retain immune memory."

Lastly, this wouldn't mean there's no hope for a vaccine, but rather, like the flu, an annual coronavirus booster shot may be necessary for "sustained levels of protective antibodies." Read more at The Guardian.