Can omicron infect you twice?


New 'stealth' subvariant raises reinfection concerns

Can omicron hit you with back-to-back COVID infections? (Photo: Getty Images)

(NEXSTAR) – With the rise of stealth omicron, a subvariant of omicron that is harder for scientists to detect, are we doomed to start the winter COVID surge all over again?

While scientists are quick to say there is still much to learn about stealth omicron, or the BA.2 variant, what we know so far indicates it’s unlikely the subvariant will reinfect people who just caught omicron in this recent wave of cases.

“I think it’s unlikely because there is so much shared similarity [between the two types] that the minor differences are probably not enough to allow it to evade immunity to omicron,” said Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes, head of Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s infectious disease division, in an interview with WBTS. “But as everybody has been saying, time will tell because [we need] a few more weeks to get a better sense.”

Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and former Harvard researcher, raised a warning flag on Twitter Sunday, citing early studies that show omicron’s protectiveness from reinfection doesn’t last long. “Our results suggest that Omicron-induced immunity may not be sufficient to prevent infection from another, more pathogenic variant, should it emerge in the future,” he tweeted, quoting the study.

As with other variants, any added protection you get from a recent omicron infection also wanes over time. About two-thirds of those infected with omicron in the U.K. were people who had caught the alpha or delta variant in past COVID waves, a study from Imperial College London found.

“I suspect over time, yes, you probably can get reinfected. But we don’t have that data yet because omicron has only been around since October/November,” John Hopkins Senior Scholar, Dr. Amesh Adalja, told KHOU.

Protection from the COVID vaccines is more reliable, the Centers for Disease Control says. A fully vaccinated person who had a breakthrough infection is best protected against future infection, a recent CDC study found.

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