COVID-19 Reinfection Among Vaccinated Individuals

Photo of African artwork. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)
Photo of African artwork. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)

This virus is smarter than us!

According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the highly contagious Omicron variant will find just about everybody.  Fauci also said, if you are vaccinated you will fare better. Your risk of hospitalization and death is reduced.

But those who are not vaccinated are going to get the brunt of the severe aspect of the disease fueled by the highly transmissible Omicron variant. However, small number of people amongst fully vaccinated may not do well. For example, the very old, very young, and immunocompromised will have weakened responses.

Now the focus should be on making sure hospitals and essential services continue to function effectively. COVID-19 is going to be part of our life. The best way of controlling the infection is for people to get vaccinated, wear a mask in public places and avoid large indoor gatherings.

Third dose of vaccine is 95 per cent effective against hospitalization and death. It also brings vaccine efficacy to 97 per cent for Delta and 61 per cent for Omicron. Unfortunately, only 56 per cent of Canadians 12 and older have at least three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Getting a third dose is important to boost our immunity. Experts believe each shot you receive reduces the severity of disease. Canada’s vaccine advisory body recommends ‘rapid deployment’ of fourth dose for people aged 80 and over.

Scientists are trying to figure out why some fully vaccinated individuals keep avoiding Covid-19 infection and why other fully vaccinated individuals keep getting recurrent infection.

Scientists are warning against lowering our guard. Our current defenses like vaccine may not hold up against the latest version of Omicron, BA.5, which is remarkably good at spreading and evading vaccine protection.

Experts agree avoiding infection is more challenging with BA.5. Omicron and its subvariants have made our social interaction riskier. BA.5, in particular, has increased the odds that people who’ve avoided COVID thus far will get sick.

BA.4 and BA.5 are subvariants of the Omicron variant that popped up late last year and then spread like wildfire all over the world. They were first discovered in South Africa and have recently grown to dominate the transmission of COVID.

BA.5 accounts for more than 50 per cent of new cases and BA.4 20 per cent. These two new subvariants seem better able to evade immunity afforded by vaccination and previous infection.

Majority of people in the U.S have had COVID-19 at least once – likely more than 70 per cent of the country. Other statistics from U.S. show many have been infected multiple times. Canada is no different. COVID-19 has infected roughly half of the Canadian population.

The emergence of an even more contagious version (Omega BA.4 and BA.5) of the virus means some people may be in for another round of infection. We don’t know the long-term effect of Omega variants on infected people.

Scientists are warning people that even if you are fully vaccinated including booster shots and have had COVID-19 after that, there is no guarantee you will not be infected again and again. But the risk of severe outcome may be quite low.

Who is getting reinfected and why? Scientists are looking for an answer to this. Risk of reinfection will always be there. We have to be careful. Hopefully, immunity in the population, whether from vaccines or prior infection, will build up and allow us to reduce transmission and hospitalization. We hope!

How many types of other variants are going to be there? Nobody knows.

Loss of smell and taste. Research shows five per cent of people who had COVID are dealing with long-lasting loss of smell or taste. Some 27 million people worldwide are estimated to have suffered a long-lasting loss of smell or taste. Losing smell has been linked to higher death rates in older adults and has been shown to have major impacts on people’s emotional and psychological well-being.

Get vaccinated. Get your booster shot. Remember, this virus is smarter than us!

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