Mutated virus may reinfect people already stricken once with COVID

“The data really are quite suggestive: The level of immunity that you get from natural infection — either the degree of immunity, the intensity of the immunity or the breadth of immunity — is obviously not enough to protect against infection with the mutant,” Fauci said.

Even if they don’t agree on the scope of the threat, scientists said reinfection with new variants is clearly a risk that needs to be explored more. There is no evidence that second cases are more severe or deadly, and a world in which people may have imperfect protection against new versions of the virus is not necessarily a world in which the pandemic never ends.

“I worry especially that some of these premature sweeping conclusions being made could rob people of hope,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Georgetown University’s Center for Global Health Science and Security. “I worry the message they may receive is that we’re never going to be rid of this. When in fact that’s not what the data suggests.”

She and others emphasized the apparent lack of severe health repercussions from reinfection — and the lack of evidence that reinfection is common.