FACT CHECK: Did A New Study Find That Having COVID-19 Gives You Immunity For Life?

Elias Atienza | Senior Reporter

A post shared on Twitter claims a new study from the Washington School of Medicine found people who caught COVID-19 are protected from the disease “for life.”

Verdict: Misleading

The study found that previous COVID-19 infection does infer some protection against future infection but not protection “for life.”

Fact Check:

The viral tweet reads, “BREAKING REPORT: Washington University School of Medicine RELEASES DATA claiming If You’ve Had COVID You’re Likely PROTECTED FOR LIFE…” However, the study is not a “breaking report,” nor does it show that people who’ve previously had COVID-19 are “protected for life” from COVID-19 infection.

The study was published May 24 in the journal Nature, nearly eight months before the tweet’s claim was made. It focused on a group of people who had mild COVID-19 infections and found that in this group the infection prompted the production of bone marrow plasma cells, which “are a persistent and essential source of protective antibodies.” The study concluded that the results indicate that a mild infection “induces robust antigen-specific, long-lived humoral immune memory in humans.”

Neither the study itself nor a press release about it claims that the protection imparted from these antibodies is absolute or that those who were previously infected are now protected from reinfection for life. A Dec. 22 editor’s note added to the May 24 press release notes that “having antibodies does not automatically translate into indefinite protection from illness, particularly as new variants arise.”

Dr. Ali Ellebedy, a co-author of the Washington University School of Medicine paper, told Check Your Fact in an email that “Our study does NOT show nor claim that people recovering from mild SARS-CoV-2 infection are protected for life.” (RELATED: Has Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla Been Arrested By The FBI On Fraud Charges?)

Epidemiological data clearly show that people recovered from earlier infection can be infected especially with emerging variants of concerns like Delta and Omicron,” Ellebedy said. “Having detectable antibody response in blood for life does NOT equal being ‘protected’ for life. Not all antibodies are protective especially if the virus they are raised against is constantly changing.”

Elias Atienza

Senior Reporter
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