Are Reinfections with COVID-19 Possible?

Dr. Paul Offit discusses the possibility of reinfection with SARS-CoV-2, the potential consequences of such reinfections, and what our experience with reinfection means for COVID-19 vaccine development.


Are reinfections with COVID-19 possible?

Paul Offit, MD: Hi, my name is Paul Offit. I'm talking to you today from the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. When you're trying to make a vaccine, the one thing you want to see is you want to make sure that natural infection with the virus that you're interested in will protect against the disease associated with re-exposure to that virus.

The good news is that's true for SARS-CoV-2. There are obviously millions and millions of people across the globe who’ve now been infected with that virus. And what it appears to be is that if they're then re-exposed to the virus again, it's possible that they could have an asymptomatic infection, and it's possible that they could have a mildly symptomatic infection, but is extremely, extremely rare that they would again get a second infection that was associated with moderate to severe disease. That's good news. That's good news for a vaccine because now all we need to do is mimic the immune response that's a consequence of natural infection, and we know then that you can prevent moderate to severe disease, or said another way, prevent the kind of disease that causes people to go to the hospital or causes them to die.

So, although it is possible to be re-infected with SARS-CoV-2, that reinfection is invariably mild, and so, therefore, of little consequence.

Thank you.

Related Centers and Programs: Vaccine Education Center

Last Reviewed on Nov 23, 2020