Skip to content

I'm a Doctor and Here's How to Tell if You're Immune to COVID

“Unfortunately, current research is suggesting that immunity to Covid-19 dwindles.”
President Donald Trump wears a mask as he walks down the hallway during his visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda

The President is out of quarantine as of Saturday, October 10th, and is back on the campaign trail. The return to public duties was concerning for many within the healthcare community as there was no confirmation of the President's lack of active Covid-19. According to the President, he is free of and "immune" to Covid-19. However immunity from Covid-19 is a complicated reality that may not be as clear cut as desired; read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

COVID Immunity Dwindles

The quest for immunity, either by recovered infection or by vaccine, is the goal of the healthcare community with any pandemic. Research has determined that exposure to a virus will confer immunity after infection. With enough of the population having been exposed to a virus and recovering, the virus will have difficulty surviving and the pandemic will end. The recovered individuals will produce antibodies to the virus giving the rest of society immunity, leading to herd immunity.

Unfortunately, current research is suggesting that immunity to Covid-19 dwindles. Even more concerning is the rate at which the immunity regresses. This is known from data of patients who have been donating plasma. Each time a patient who has recovered from Covid-19 donates plasma, their antibody levels are tested. Data suggests that some patients have a very rapid decline in their antibodies, just mere weeks, while others have a decline over a few months.

This is just one aspect of the disease that is making it difficult to determine exactly when Covid-19 was present in the United States. Although anecdotally people reported Covid-19 like symptoms in December or January, most will not have antibodies presently even if they truly had Covid-19.

RELATED: 11 Symptoms of COVID You Never Want to Get

The President is Not Entirely Wrong

The President is not completely wrong with his statement, however. The fact that convalescent plasma has even found some efficacy as a treatment for Covid-19 infers that there are antibodies within the recovered patient. The difficulty is the unknown duration that a patient could claim to be immune. There is currently no tool to determine the rate of decline of antibodies, which would make the prediction of when immunity ends impossible.

The statement of immunity to Covid-19 is therefore convoluted and can only be discussed in the context of knowing a patient's blood antibody levels. This is a test that is not currently helpful for the Public Health Officials as policy is made to protect the majority of a population rather than based off of the Covid-19 antibody test for one individual patient. As for yourself, to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Kenneth Perry, MD FACEP
Dr. Perry is an active practicing physician and Medical Director of an Emergency Department in Charleston, South Carolina. Read more