Home Immunity Covid reinfections – how does immunity behave against other variants?

Covid reinfections – how does immunity behave against other variants?


A growing number of Kiwis appear to be re-infected with Covid-19 – although many are vaccinated and it is thought the antibodies from a fight should protect you to some degree against re-infection.

One such person is Sam Tipping, who first contracted the disease during the Alpha wave. More recently, he caught the Omicron variant.

Tipping says that while there were only minor differences when it came to symptoms, it was the dramatic change in public attitude in the years separating the two strains that really struck him.

“As for the headspace around it – the first one you’re almost ostracized from the community whereas the last one everyone tried to grab it,” he says.

Tip never believed he was safe from a second infection, even with two shots and a booster shot.

“I never thought I was invincible and I thought I would catch it again, it was just a matter of what the symptoms were and what kind of effect it would have on my body.”

And according to epidemiologist Michael Baker, data overseas shows that reinfections are on the rise.

“In the UK, around 10% of cases are now classified as reinfections. Some people, unfortunately, have been documented to have the infection three or four times now.

But in Aotearoa, Baker says it’s unclear how many Covid-19 cases are reinfections because the Department of Health doesn’t collect that data.

“We should definitely consider reinfection as a key measure in New Zealand and it should be relatively easy to do.”

According to Malaghan Institute clinical immunologist Dr Maia Brewerton, understanding the link between Covid-19 variants and our immune response will be one of the keys to developing effective vaccines.

“The virus keeps changing. It’s continually trying to outsmart us, so it’s kind of back and forth between our immune system and a virus that’s evolving to change.