Experts Share What They Know About How Often You Can Get COVID-19

Raimond Spekking

Covid-19 has been with us for over 2 years now. While we have learned a lot about the virus in that time, there is a lot that we thought we knew that has changed. There are still many unanswered questions. Like, how many times can you get Covid-19? How often can you get Covid-19? Are you really immune for at least 3 months after getting infected?

Thankfully, experts have offered their advice and shared their knowledge to help answer these questions. In some cases the answer is as simple as we don’t know yet, but at least that’s an honest answer.

Can You Get Covid-19 More Than Once?

The short answer is yes. While at the beginning of the pandemic we thought, hoped and believed that if you got Covid-19 once you couldn’t get it again, we now know that’s not true. You probably know someone who has had Covid-19 more than once. Perhaps you’ve had Covid-19 more than once.

According to a study published in the journal “Science,” in South Africa, researchers discovered that people who were infected with one variation of the virus often were reinfected when a new variant came along. For example, if you were infected with the Delta variant, you could also be infected with the Omicron variant.

Thomas Russo, M.D., is a professor and chief of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo in New York. He thinks it’s obvious that reinfection happens, but he does not yet know if there is a limit on the number of times someone can be infected with the virus. That means, one person could potentially get reinfected each time there’s a new variant. Covid-19 hasn’t been around long enough for experts to know if there is a limit on reinfection.

Is There Any Sort of Immunity After Infection?

Experts used to believe that if you got Covid-19 you were immune for at least 3 months. They no longer think the answer is that clear cut. Once again, Dr. Russo points out that it all depends on the variants involved. He explained, “People who might have gotten Delta are at risk of Omicron. The same is playing out with people who got BA.1 over the holidays—BA.2 and BA.2.12.1 shows up and they’re getting infected with those variants.”

In most cases, the same person would not get reinfected with Covid-19 immediately after recovering. It sounds like in most cases it would take a new variant to come along for the person to get reinfected, and this might mean that the person has at least some level of immunity for a couple months or even years.

According to Amesh A. Adalja, MD, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, “With a virus like SARS-CoV-2, and the current vaccine technologies, I think that reinfections are unavoidable.”

Is There Anything You Can Do To Prevent Getting Covid-19?

Yes. Think about everything we all did at the beginning of the pandemic. Take precautions around large groups. Stay home if you aren’t feeling well. According to Dr. Russo, even though people who are vaccinated can still get Covid-19, getting vaccinated is still the best option we currently have to prevent infection. He explained, “Our vaccines are imperfect against preventing infections, but that is your best strategy.” Dr. Russo also recommends wearing a face mask and avoiding “risky situations” when there is a high level of community spread. 

Have you had Covid-19 more than once?