President Donald Trump recently tweeted that he was immune to COVID-19. Twitter attached a warning saying that it “spread misleading and potentially harmful information.” Later, one of America’s top medical experts, Dr. Anthony Fauci, partially defended Trump’s statement. So now we must ask: What is the truth when it comes to coronavirus immunity?
In an interview, Fauci said that Trump is “temporarily immune,” but he is not sure how long the immunity will last.
Humans develop immunity to viruses after they have had them. One good example is chickenpox. Once most people get over being sick with chickenpox, they will be immune for several decades, maybe even for the rest of their lives.
Yellow fever is an example of a disease for which a suitable vaccine lasts a lifetime. The reason is that the virus is stable and doesn’t change much over time. Scientists have had far less success in developing a vaccine for the seasonal flu because it mutates. For that reason, people can catch the flu many times during a lifetime. The antibodies only give a temporary immunity until the virus changes so much that the immune system fails to recognize it anymore.
Humans are exposed to many coronaviruses, and, therefore, a large portion of the population is likely naturally immune to COVID-19. The infection is not well-understood. We still don’t know if the virus is mutating rapidly or even at all. Therefore, scientists do not know how long immunity will last. If it behaves like the seasonal flu, the effect will only last a couple of years. The pandemic will then follow a similar path to other viruses, such as the 1968 Hong Kong flu.
There have also been recorded several cases of people who have contracted COVID-19 twice. Some have used this as evidence that one cannot become immune. A more likely explanation is that a part of the population never becomes fully immune to some viruses.
Trump has been measured to have an immune response to the illness. Therefore, he probably is resistant to the disease and cannot spread it to other people. The only uncertainty is for how long the effect will last. Will he be immune for the rest of his life, or maybe only a few months? We don’t know yet.