On October 11, without sufficient scientific evidence to actually make this claim, President Donald Trump said on Twitter that he now has COVID-19 immunity. Trump, who announced that he had COVID-19 on October 2 and was then hospitalized with the illness, is now back on the campaign trail even though questions remain about whether he may still be contagious. And now, in a tweet that Twitter has flagged for “spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19,” Trump said he got “a total and complete sign off from White House Doctors yesterday. That means I can’t get it (immune), and can’t give it. Very nice to know!!!” Over the phone on the Fox News show Sunday Morning Futures, he also said, “It looks like I’m immune, for, I don’t know, maybe a long time, a short time, nobody really knows.”

It would actually be nice to know any concrete details about how long COVID-19 immunity lasts. But immunity is an ongoing question mark for public health officials. Even antibody tests, which may tell you if you’ve had the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the past (but won’t always), don’t currently reveal much about immunity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Having antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19 may provide protection from getting infected with the virus again,” reads guidance updated in late June. “But even if it does, we do not know how much protection the antibodies may provide or how long this protection may last.”

In August, the World Health Organization (WHO) echoed that sentiment when discussing the idea of “immunity certificates,” or using a positive antibody test as reason to believe it’s safe enough to return to activities like work and travel because you’ve already had the infection. “This rests on the as yet unproven assumption that infection provides long-term protection against re-infection. Antibody-mediated immunity is not yet sufficiently understood to offer any guarantees of protection against re-infection,” the organization wrote. “We do not yet have enough data to confirm if antibodies protect, what antibody levels are required, or how long protection will last.”

So…what do we know about COVID-19 immunity?

“The evidence suggests people are not getting reinfected in the short term,” Eleanor Murray, Sc.D., assistant professor of epidemiology at Boston University School of Public Health, previously told SELF after the CDC issued confusing updates that many understood to mean that COVID-19 immunity lasts less than three months. (The point of the guidance, the CDC later said, wasn’t about estimating how long immunity lasts at all, and was instead intended to explain that low levels of the virus can remain in a person’s system for up to three months after infection.)

But it has become clear that COVID-19 reinfection does in fact seem to be possible. “Just because something on average isn’t happening doesn’t mean that it can’t ever happen,” Murray said. The first confirmed case of reinfection was in a 33-year-old Hong Kong man who became infected with two genetically distinct strains of the virus 142 days apart, with the second infection being asymptomatic, according to a report in Clinical Infectious Diseases. “We now know that reinfection can occur,” John Wherry, Ph.D., an immunologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, told Nature. “It remains unclear how frequent of an event reinfection is, or what features of the immune response are associated with reinfection.”

According to the WHO, it appears as though people with severe illness develop a higher level of antibodies than those with mild illness, and some studies suggest COVID-19 antibodies in general begin to fade after three months. However, “even small amounts of antibodies can potentially still be protective,” Mala Maini, M.D., Ph.D., a viral immunologist at University College London, told Nature.

Ultimately, we just don’t have the answers to how long COVID-19 immunity lasts quite yet. Which is likely why Twitter flagged the president’s message as violating the platform’s rules; we don’t know enough about the virus for any of us to comfortably declare ourselves immune after contracting the illness.

The real takeaway here? A previous COVID-19 diagnosis shouldn’t give anyone a free pass from following public safety measures. Since it’s not clear if getting COVID-19 protects you from getting—and then spreading—the virus again, even having positive antibodies or having recovered from the virus “cannot be used to exempt anyone from public health measures in their community,” per the WHO.

So, you know the drill: This means  that in addition to hygiene measures like washing our hands, wearing masks, social distancing, and avoiding large gatherings are still the responsible choice for all of us, including people who have had coronavirus. If only the president would consistently set that example.

Source: self.com