What is Covid-19 Immunity?
The term 'Immunity' refers to the ability of our body to fight back against unwanted & potentially harmful pathogens (disease-causing external agents). It makes our body resist the ill effects of the underlying bacteria or virus & prevents us from falling sick.
Our immune system is a complex architecture of different specialized cells, performing unique functions. These immune cells are synthesized by our body all the time. A special type of Y-shaped protein helps our immune system to detect & stave off foreign infectious agents, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites. This protein is called an - antibody. These antibodies keep circulating through our bloodstream and can memorize details of pathogens that were encountered in the past. If it encounters that specific pathogen again in the future, the immune e system would be better prepared to neutralize it.
When our body produces antibodies by itself in response to a certain pathogen, it produces passive immunity. It is also called - adaptive immunity. On the other hand, when we're given antibodies through a vaccine - it produces active immunity. The intensity & duration of passive immunity or natural immunity varies from one person to another. It depends on several factors like genetics, age, lifestyle, etc. It is important to note that passive immunity cannot be acquired for all pathogens. Also, a mild illness may not produce substantial natural immunity. Multiple studies show that passive immunity towards coronavirus (Covid-19), fades over time and does so much faster than vaccine-induced immunity.
A person can acquire Covid-19 immunity through a vaccine (active immunity), after recovering from it (passive immunity), or both (combination of active & passive immunity). Covid immunity after breakthrough infection along with following vaccination can provide pandemic-breaking immunity to most people.
How long will your Covid-19 immunity last after recovering from Covid-19?
Our body takes a couple of weeks to build immunity post-vaccination. Research tells us that Covid-19 antibodies which are produced by our body after infection last for up to eight months for 95% of the people who recovered from it. As new variants keep on coming, getting an accurate measurement of how long this passive immunity lasts becomes tricky. On the other hand, Covid-19 vaccines that were 90% effective against the virus initially, could only be 70% effective after 4-5months. Covid immunity period may still vary widely from one person to another as there are a plethora of influencing factors.
Furthermore, in a recent 2022 research, it was shown that certain Covid-19 sub-variants including Omicron were able to bypass the antibodies produced from both infection & vaccination. These new sub-variants leave no imprint on our immune system, thus increasing the chances of reinfection in the future. Even with booster doses, reinfections from newer omicron variants are possible. It is because of this transient protection that scientists around the world are debating whether a fourth dose is required. One thing is certain, hybrid immunity provides the maximum boost to our antibody levels. This increases both the efficacy & duration of the antibodies.
Will your reinfection of Covid-19 be more or less severe?
Even though most people will have some level of passive immunity from repeat infections, reinfections might still occur. Reinfection risk is not to be underestimated, especially with the multiple sub-variants of Omicron. However, research suggests that severe health complications are rare. Most reinfections end up producing mild symptoms & only a handful of cases turn out to be severe or critical. Furthermore, reinfections have been much less severe than primary infections, resulting in lower hospitalization rates. It should be noted that for some people the reinfection might be more severe than the primary infection. However, Covid immunity after infection does improve the chances of recovery for most people.
What should you do to reduce the risk of reinfection?
Your immunity after recovering from covid does get more efficient in handling consequent reinfection, but prevention is always better than cure. There are a few crucial steps you can take to reduce the chances of reinfection from the new variants of Covid-19. They are as follows:
1) Masks for Unvaccinated People
It is highly important to use high-quality original KN95 masks Singapore. Counterfeit masks could make you susceptible to reinfections as they are of inferior quality. These masks filter out at least 95% of airborne particles. Similarly, KF94 masks Singapore are also effective in providing such a high level of protection. These masks filter out 94% of suspended particles. These high-filtration masks are especially recommended for those who are not yet vaccinated against Covid-19.
2) Masks for Vaccinated People
Those who have already been vaccinated, need not go for a high-filtration mask. Instead, they can use high-quality original individually sealed mask. These masks are light & don't affect breathing as much. They are also disposable and can filter out pollutants, dust, and other chemicals as well. They are made of three layers and a malleable strip at the top, which can be adjusted for optimal fitting.
Multiple peer-reviewed research papers have concluded that for most, vaccination will be highly effective in reducing the severity of Covid-19 infection. Once vaccinated, your body is better prepared to ward off viral particles by making your immune response more intense. Research suggests that those who have had Covid-19 infections should still get vaccinated. Vaccines have proven to be a secure & trustworthy way of developing an immune response for both children & adults. One study revealed that vaccination can mitigate the risk of reinfection roughly by 50%.
4) Hygiene Improvement
Apart from washing hands with soap frequently & thoroughly, there are other hygiene points to keep in mind. Some of them are - using clean bed sheets, towels & clothes daily, using alcohol sanitizers while commuting, avoiding touching mouth with hands, using the non-dominant hand while touching doorknobs and handles, etc.
5) Diet Improvement
One should never forget the phrase - "You are what you eat". Food plays a pivotal role in determining one's overall health & immunity. Limiting sugar & salt can greatly improve your health by improving insulin sensitivity & metabolic functions. Consuming more green-leafy vegetables & probiotics can enhance the diversity of your gut microbiome, improving your quality of life to a great extent. Certain foods like tomato, broccoli, spinach, etc. are great at developing resilience against infections. Some natural immunity-building supplements are - ginger, gooseberries, oranges, red bell peppers, garlic, yogurt, almonds, turmeric, sunflower seeds, papaya, green tea extracts, etc.
6) Getting Adequate Sleep
You should never compromise on sleep. A steady 7-8 hours of deep sleep can do wonders for your health. Sleep helps to repair your body, improve learning & memory, lowers stress levels, supports growth & development & maintains the immune system. By not getting sufficient sleep you can develop chronic health issues, anxiety, depression, mood swings, headaches, weight gain, poor vision, etc. Sleep deficiency can also reduce the effectiveness of the covid-19 vaccine.
7) Ensuring Proper Hydration
Drinking up to 8-10 glasses of water daily is a key aspect of maintaining a healthy immune system. This helps in detoxification through excretion & also supports our lymphatic system in getting rid of waste & unwanted materials from our body. Inadequate hydration weakens the lymphatic system, resulting in a slower immune response. If water is unavailable, you can also drink citrus juices and or coconut water as an alternative to water.
8) Exercising Daily & Diligently
Studies have shown that even a moderate-intensity daily exercise regimen of 20 minutes is a sufficient immunity booster. It helps increase metabolism which in turn improves immune function. Daily exercise activates our SNS (Sympathetic Nervous System) which increases our heart rate, breathing & blood pressure. This stimulates cellular immunity & more White Blood Cells (WBCs) get released. These cells actively take part in attacking pathogens and driving them away from our bodies.
9) Consistent Exposure to Sunlight
This is an easy & accessible way to improve immunity naturally, as sunlight is a rich source of Vitamin D. It helps our body to activate T-cells. These specialized immune cells can directly kill infected cells, activate other immune cells, and also regulate an immune response.
10) Cutting off Smoking, Alcohol & other Addictive Substances
Smoking also affects our immune system as nicotine is a known immunosuppressant. It reduces our immune activity, making us more vulnerable to Covid-19 infection. Alcohol makes it difficult for our immune system to coordinate in case of an emergency, leaving us vulnerable to pathogens. Long-term alcohol use can weaken lung immune responses & increase the severity of Covid-19 infection.
11) De-stressing Yourself
Too much stress makes our body release cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. This impairs our immunity & makes us vulnerable to infections. There are many ways to lower stress levels such as - yoga, meditation, laughing more, connecting with friends, maintaining a personal journal, etc.
12) Consuming Supplements
Vitamins & minerals, also known as micro-nutrients - can be obtained by following a balanced diet. However, for certain people, it can be difficult to have to get one. Furthermore, office stress & sedentary lifestyle can lower nutrient levels in the body. That is why taking supplements is a great way to mitigate nutrient deficiencies. Some of the popular anti-viral supplements are - zinc, selenium, iron, folic acid, vitamins A, D, C & E, Adaptogens, Baicalin, Quercetin, etc.
Will Covid-19 immunity protect you from other new Covid-19 variants?
As Omicron sub-variants & future variants would have found new ways to pass through our immune system without being detected by undergoing rapid mutations - our natural immunity might not be able to safeguard us against future infections. However, unvaccinated individuals are much more susceptible to reinfection compared to fully vaccinated individuals.
Prevention is Better than Cure
We should never let our guard down against Covid-19 as it has shown time & time again that it can undergo rapid mutagenic transformations in a short period of time & surprise our immune system. We should continue to follow all the necessary precautions & keep encouraging unvaccinated individuals to get vaccinated at the earliest. We need to be disciplined and keep wearing good quality masks outdoors, avoid large indoor gatherings, wash hands frequently and minimize the use of public transport as much as possible. Furthermore, the most vulnerable members of society i.e. seniors and immunocompromised individuals should be encouraged to get booster shots as well. In this way, we can limit the severity of the next Covid-19 wave.
Follow Wistech Health Newsroom on Wistech Instagram to check the latest news weekly!