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Having Covid once is no guarantee you won’t get it again. Here’s the latest on reinfections.

The United States isn’t currently tracking Covid reinfections. However, U.K. researchers have found that the risk of reinfection was eight times higher during the omicron wave than it was in last year’s delta wave.

“I would not be surprised if we see people get infected more than once per year,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, said in an interview with NBC News last week, though he added that he feels optimistic that it will eventually settle into becoming just a seasonal occurrence, like the flu. (Fauci, who has received two vaccine boosters, himself tested positive for Covid on Wednesday, saying he has mild symptoms.)

Of course, just because reinfections are possible, doesn’t mean people should give up on all efforts to prevent them; staying up-to-date on vaccinations and wearing masks indoors in places with high transmission still work to lower risk.
Here’s what we know so far about reinfections.

Can I be reinfected if I’ve already had Covid, or been vaccinated or boosted?

To put it bluntly, yes. Experts are in agreement that reinfections are possible, even in people who have already been infected or those who are up-to-date on their vaccines.

“Reinfections, unfortunately, are not unusual for coronavirus,” said Akiko Iwasaki, a professor of immunobiology at Yale University. “It’s just the nature of this virus infection.”

The coronavirus that causes Covid is not unique — other types of coronaviruses that cause common colds can also reinfect, Fauci said. But those reinfections may occur every two or three years, because those viruses don’t change very much.
Full coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic

That’s not the case for SARS-CoV-2, and particularly the rapidly evolving omicron subvariants, which are good at evading existing immunity. Combine that with the fact that people’s immunity naturally wanes over time, Iwasaki said, and “it’s not that surprising to see a lot of reinfections now.”

That’s especially true for people who were infected with the original omicron variant, dubbed BA.1, in the winter. The BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants — currently gaining a foothold in the U.S. — are quite different from BA.1, so “it’s no guarantee” that having a past omicron infection will protect you from subsequent subvariants, she said.

How many times can I be reinfected?

It’s impossible to put an exact number on how many times a person can be reinfected, experts say.