You can still catch Omicron, even if you've already had COVID-19 - study

If you’ve had coronavirus, you can get it again. According to the current report and previous studies, the variant seems to be able to evade more easily than any previous immunity achieved.

Illustrative photo of people walking in Jerusalem with masks, July 15, 2021.  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Illustrative photo of people walking in Jerusalem with masks, July 15, 2021.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

The numbers are going up and more and more people are getting infected with the contagious Omicron strain.  A report on the risk of getting coronavirus again shows that no one is really immune to the new variant. Here are the numbers.

A little over a month since it appeared, scientists are still learning the true risks of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus. The latest report from the COVID response team at the Imperial College London indicates that the risk of reinfection from the new version is 5.4 times higher than with the Delta strain.

A previous study estimated that having had COVID provided 85% protection for six months against being infected with the Delta variant. In the current report, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, the protection against Omicron is only 19%.

Professor Neil Ferguson from the Imperial College stated to the press that this study shows that Omicron can definitely evade previous immunity achieved by infection or vaccination. This level of immune evasion means that Omicron poses a crucial and immediate threat to public health.

The team also examined the risk of infection from a version of Omicron in people with two doses of the vaccine and in those who also received the booster. Data collected by the UK Health Security Agency and the National Health Service between November 29 and December 11 in people who received the standard vaccine shows effectiveness against symptomatic coronavirus appears to be 20% at most. After the booster, effectiveness rises to between 55 to 80%.

A woman wears a protective mask during the coronavirus pandemic (credit: TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY)A woman wears a protective mask during the coronavirus pandemic (credit: TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY)

Prof. Azra Ghani, also from Imperial, said that "quantifying reinfection risk and vaccine effectiveness against Omicron is essential for modelling the likely future trajectory of the Omicron wave and the potential impact of vaccination and other public health interventions." 

The study also indicates that there is no major difference in the severity of the disease between Delta and Omicron but researchers stressed that the data is limited, especially regarding hospitalization rates.

Researchers stated that the study results are clear. If you’ve had coronavirus, you can get it again. According to the current report and previous studies, the variant seems to be able to evade more easily than any previous immunity achieved.

They conclude that the vaccine provides a safe and effective way to increase immunity to COVID-19, especially for the Omicron variant, without getting sick. It’s important to get the booster shot, especially now, as this study shows that three doses provide much better protection against the variant than just two vaccines.