Protection and waning of natural and hybrid COVID-19 immunity


BACKGROUND Infection with SARS-CoV-2 provides substantial natural immunity against reinfection. Recent studies have shown strong waning of the immunity provided by the BNT162b2 vaccine. The time course of natural and hybrid immunity is unknown.

METHODS Data on confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infections were extracted from the Israeli Ministry of Health database for the period August to September 2021 regarding all persons previously infected or vaccinated. We compared infection rates as a function of time since the last immunity-conferring event using Poisson regression, adjusting for possible confounding factors.

RESULTS Confirmed infection rates increased according to time elapsed since the last immunity-conferring event in all cohorts. For unvaccinated previously infected individuals they increased from 10.5 per 100,000 risk-days for those previously infected 4-6 months ago to 30.2 for those previously infected over a year ago. For individuals receiving a single dose following prior infection they increased from 3.7 per 100,000 person days among those vaccinated in the past two months to 11.6 for those vaccinated over 6 months ago. For vaccinated previously uninfected individuals the rate per 100,000 person days increased from 21.1 for persons vaccinated within the first two months to 88.9 for those vaccinated more than 6 months ago.

CONCLUSIONS Protection from reinfection decreases with time since previous infection, but is, nevertheless, higher than that conferred by vaccination with two doses at a similar time since the last immunity-conferring event. A single vaccine dose after infection helps to restore protection.