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In line with an Oxford examine, a Covid reinfection for a minimum of six months is "extremely unlikely"

The residents will undergo a free nasopharynx rapid test for Covid-19 on November 20, 2020 in a test facility in a school sports hall in Bozen, South Tyrol, Northern Italy.

PIERRE TEYSSOT | AFP | Getty Images

LONDON – According to a new Oxford study, it is "highly unlikely" that people who contracted the coronavirus will get the disease again for at least six months.

Researchers say the results are "exciting" because they represent an important step in understanding how Covid-19 immunity works.

The study, published on Friday, claims to be the first large-scale study of how much protection people get against re-infection after contracting the coronavirus. It was part of an important collaboration between the University of Oxford and the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, but has not yet been peer-reviewed.

It comes after a number of encouraging vaccine results in the past few weeks following late-stage readings from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna and positive results from the second phase from AstraZeneca-Oxford.

Optimism is growing that a Covid vaccine could help end the coronavirus pandemic that killed over 1.3 million people worldwide.

Public health officials and experts have warned that it could take months, perhaps even more than a year, to distribute enough doses of a potential vaccine to achieve something called herd immunity and suppress the virus.

"Really good news"

The study spanned a 30-week period between April and November with 12,180 health care workers employed at Oxford University hospitals.

Workers were tested for antibodies to the virus that causes Covid-19 to see who was previously infected. They were tested for the disease when they were uncomfortable with symptoms and as part of regular testing.

The results showed that 89 out of 11,052 employees without antibodies developed a new infection with symptoms. However, none of the 1,246 employees with antibodies developed a symptomatic infection. It was also found that employees with antibodies were less likely to test positive for the virus without symptoms.

"This is really good news because we can be sure that most people who get COVID-19 won't get it again, at least in the short term," said Professor David Eyre of the Nuffield Department of Population Health at Oxford University.

In addition, researchers have proven otherwise. It was found that health workers who did not have antibodies to Covid were more likely to develop the infection.

A paramedic drives a woman out of an ambulance outside the Burgos Hospital in Burgos, Northern Spain, on the first day of a two-week lockdown on October 21, 2020 to limit the spread of the new coronavirus COVID-19 in the US area.

Cesar Manso | AFP | Getty Images

The researchers said there was not enough data yet to make a judgment on protection from initial infection over a six-month period. The study will continue to collect data to review how long protection against re-infection can last.

"This is an exciting finding that suggests that infection with the virus provides at least short-term protection against re-infection. This news comes in the same month as other encouraging news about COVID vaccines," said Dr. Katie Jeffery, Director of Infection Prevention and Control for Oxford University Hospitals.

A previous study by the NHS Foundation Trust at Oxford University Hospitals, published Nov. 5, found that antibodies to Covid-19 were reduced by half in less than 90 days.

In this study, which has also not yet been peer-reviewed, it was found that antibody levels drop lower and faster in younger adults.

"We know from a previous study that antibody levels go down over time," Eyre said, referring to the research published earlier this month.

"However, this latest study shows that those infected have some immunity. We will continue to carefully monitor this cohort of staff to see how long protection lasts and whether previous infection affects the severity of infection if people are re-infected. ""

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