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Covid immunity post-infection lasts six months, NPHET advised

The new guidance doubles the length of time of presumptive immunity after infection.

PEOPLE WHO CONTRACT Covid-19 are immune to the virus for six months, the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) has been advised by Ireland’s health watchdog.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) provides evidence-based advice to NPHET to inform public health policy and advice.

The watchdog today published its latest advice to NPHET on the duration of immunity following infection with SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes the Covid-19 illness.

The advice lengthens the period of protection from reinfection from ‘at least 12 weeks’ to six months.

It was informed by international evidence and expert opinion, from the Covid-19 Expert Advisory Group.

The experts examined evidence from five large cohort studies, including three studies that enrolled healthcare workers, to answer the question.

“We have advised NPHET that presumptive immunity should be extended to six months post-infection,” Dr Máirín Ryan, Hiqa’s Deputy CEO and Director of Health Technology Assessment, said.

The risk of reinfection with SARS-CoV-2 is low and no evidence was found to suggest that immunity wanes over this period.

Dr Ryan continued: “With regards to guidance, we have recommended that the post-infection exemption for close contacts be extended to six months in line with this evidence.”

The studies Hiqa examined were conducted prior to December 2020, since then new variants of the virus have been found and vaccines have begun roll-out.

Hiqa said the applicability of the findings to the new strains and vaccinated populations is unknown. 

It also cautioned that the advice may not apply to some groups, such as the elderly and those who are immunocompromised.

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