Seniors Lack COVID Protection After Infection

As summer winds down and we inch closer to fall, older adults may be starting to consider which seasonal vaccinations will soon be due to offer protection from flu, pneumonia, RSV or COVID-19.   For those who contracted the Omicron variant of COVID, and feel they have a reasonable level of immunity from reinfection – a new study may challenge these commonly-held beliefs about hybrid immunity. 

According to a recent Global News report, a new study out of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario has found that seniors in long-term care and retirement homes did not gain protection from COVID-19 Omicron reinfection in subsequent months after contracting the virus.  Immunologists expected people who had both been vaccinated and infected by COVID to experience hybrid immunity.  But research shows that vaccinated seniors infected with the Omicron variant in early 2022 had roughly a 20 times greater risk for reinfection with other Omicron variants later the same year than vaccinated seniors who did not contract COVID. 

Researchers say the study findings highlight the need for older adults to stay current on COVID-19 vaccinations and not rely on past infections to offer protection.  It is unknown if the study results apply only to seniors, or if the general population could expect similar outcomes.  The research, led by immunologist Dawn Bowdish, included 750 vaccinated seniors living in care and retirement homes across Ontario. 

Seniors, and people with compromised immune systems, should talk with their healthcare provider about which vaccines are recommended to boost immunity and protect vulnerable adults from serious illness.   New COVID-19 vaccines, updated for the most common variants in circulation, are expected to be available by the end of September or early October.