Louisiana’s improving virus outlook not driven by increased immunity, doctors say

Updated: Feb. 10, 2021 at 6:58 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The state’s top coronavirus expert says Louisiana is squashing its third surge primarily because people are staying home and wearing their masks, not because the state is developing stronger community immunity.

“I don’t think we’re there yet,” Dr. Joe Kanter said. “It’s frustrating because I wish that we were, but the facts on the ground don’t argue that way.”

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More than 20% of Louisianans have developed COVID-fighting antibodies, either because they’ve been infected or because they’ve been vaccinated. For the first time, more Louisianans have taken a shot than have been infected with the virus.

But the 415,000 Louisianans who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 may not be as protected from reinfection as they think.

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The data is murky, but the Centers for Disease Control says a previously infected person’s cells generally start to forget how to fight off the virus about 90 days after recovering from a first infection. That means there are some Louisianans, infected as recently as November, who are not fully-equipped to fight off reinfection.

“It’s not all or nothing,” Kanter said. “It doesn’t mean at 91 days it all goes away, or 89 days it’s 100 percent protection. It’s nothing like that.”

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Kanter says “without question” that previously infected people should get a Coronavirus vaccine as soon as they become eligible.

“Natural infection likely provides some degree of incomplete protection for some degree of time, but to really specify how long that lasts - the jury is still somewhat out,” he said.

It’s not clear how long vaccines maintain peak effectiveness, but most research indicates they’ll offer some protection for two to three years. Doctors believe an annual booster shot will probably be necessary.

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