Welcome to COVID Questions, TIME’s advice column. Today, A.B. asks:
“I’m fully vaccinated, boosted and have recently recovered from a breakthrough infection. Can I go back to normal now?”
There are certain pathogens that the human immune system learns to block forever after a single encounter. But others, like coronaviruses that cause the common cold, can sicken a person year after year.
Unfortunately, the virus that causes COVID-19 is, like other coronaviruses, able to infect the same person multiple times. T
he body gets better at fighting it after each exposure or vaccine dose, meaning future brushes with the virus will likely be milder, but there doesn’t seem to be a point at which the risk of infection completely disappears.
“There’s probably always a level of exposure to the virus that could overcome the level of immunity you have,” says Dr. Rachel Presti, an infectious disease researcher at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. That’s especially true if you’re elderly, have underlying medical conditions or are immunocompromised.
Even with those caveats, there’s a lot of good news for fully vaccinated and boosted people who have recovered from a recent COVID-19 infection.
People in that category have several layers of defense against the virus. And, assuming you’re generally healthy, experts say that leaves you with a grace period of at least three to six months during which you’re unlikely to get sick again.
According to the latest federal analysis, which included data from fall 2021, a fully vaccinated and boosted person in the U.S. was 10 times less likely to test positive for COVID-19—and 20 times less likely to die from it—compared to an unvaccinated adult.
More recent data gathered during the Omicron surge in the U.K. confirms that fully vaccinated and boosted people remain significantly less likely to get infected than unvaccinated people.
Still, breakthrough infections happen … READ MORE.