Possibly. I’m sorry to give you an imprecise answer, but we really aren’t sure yet whether and for how long people who have recovered from COVID-19 are immune after they recover. Having immunity against future infections would make a big difference to individuals, as well as to society at large. The greater the number of immune people in the population, the fewer number of susceptible ones. That would help end the pandemic.
We know that immunity to coronaviruses that cause the common cold lasts one to three years, but we don’t yet know if that’s true of COVID-19. Research in China has shown that monkeys infected with this virus appear to be immune from re-infection, but we don’t yet know how long their immunity will last.
We have another clue from the experience with SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), caused by a corona virus that spread in 2003. Here, immunity reportedly lasted eight to 10 years. Earlier studies have suggested that immunity to some coronavirus infections doesn’t last long but that secondary infections usually are less severe and may be less contagious.
A March 30 (2020) article in the New Yorker magazine quoted Tom Frieden, M.D., a former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as cautioning survivors of infection with COVID-19 not to assume they’re immune from future infections. He noted that immunity varies from disease to disease. It may be as short as a season, or in same cases may last decades. To illustrate the latter, he referred to a measles epidemic in 1846 on an island 200 miles north of Scotland. “Everyone got it, a hundred percent, because it is one of the most infectious diseases,” Dr. Frieden said, adding “After the outbreak, there were no cases of measles on the island for 65 years. Then measles came back, and again everyone on the island was infected – except those over 65. They were all still immune.”
At present, your best bet is to do all you can to protect yourself from getting COVID-19 the first time – stay at home, especially if you’re sick or live in a city or state that has stay-at-home orders. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, don’t shake hands with anyone and try not to touch your face. And if you do contract a mild infection, don’t assume that you’re immune afterward.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
Apoorva Mandavilli, “Can You Become Immune to the Coronavirus,” New York Times, April 10, 2020