The Perfect Enemy | Growing number of Californians getting COVID for a 2nd time
August 11, 2022
Read Time:2 Minute

There is a lot of talk about COVID re-infections after recent state data revealed a growing number of Californians are getting COVID — again.

So who’s at risk of re-infection? Can you get covid twice in one month? And why are more boosted people getting covid than vaccinated people who are not boosted?

CBS13 is getting answers.

To be clear, reinfections are different than rebound cases, like President Biden’s, which are associated with rare side effects of the COVID drug Paxlovid. A rebound is a recurrence of symptoms, or a positive test, a few days after testing negative. 

However, recent state data indicates that one in seven Californians with COVID last month had a *reinfection* — meaning they were previously infected with covid.   

UCSF infectious disease expert Dr. Phillip Norris says reinfections are not surprising. 

Watts: Why are we seeing an increase in reinfections?

Dr. Norris: Well, this is typical coronavirus behavior.

“We’re always going to have new variants, just like we do with influenza. So every year you get a flu shot because the strains are a little bit different. It’s the same thing with this coronavirus now,” said Norris. 

Though he says you’re unlikely to get a reinfection from the same variant right away.

For instance, the people who are getting reinfected right now likely had a different variant the first time around and should have immunity to the current variant for at least a few months.

“Shortly after an infection, or shortly after a boost, you’ll have the best antibodies against that circulating variant,” said Dr. Norris.

Speaking of boosts, state data indicates that people who are boosted are getting covid at nearly twice the rate of people who are vaccinated but not boosted. However, people who are not vaccinated are still far more likely to get covid than both groups. 

Watts: Why are people who are boosted testing positive at a higher rate than people who are vaccinated, but not boosted?

Dr. Norris: Yeah, that’s a great question. It’s a complicated answer. So the key…data points that we’re not getting is when were people boosted?

Dr. Norris explains that the data doesn’t indicate when people were boosted and the further you get from your boost, the more likely you are to get covid.

“By six months, you’ve lost most of your boost from the boost,” said Dr. Norris.

Whereas, people who are vaccinated but never got boosted are more likely to have already had COVID and thus have, what some like Dr. Monica Ghandi refer to as, super immunity. 

“Study after study is showing us now that what’s called hybrid immunity, getting vaccinated and having a natural infection, is far stronger of protection against cases and hospitalizations than either being vaccinated and booster alone or having natural infection alone,” said Dr. Monica Ghandi. 

But what about people with recent boosts? Are they protected even though current boosters don’t specifically target the current strains like BA-5? 

“Yes. So after a boost, the antibody levels go up and there is some cross-protection,” said Dr. Norris.

He says current boosts are not as effective as a BA-5-specific boost would be, and by the time a variant-specific boost is available, we may be on to the next strain. 

But infectious disease experts say, any antibodies are better than none.