KEY POINTS

  • People who had a low-dose Omicron infection could get reinfected with the same variant: Expert
  • Immunocompromised patients are also at risk of Omicron reinfection
  • Protection offered by a previous infection against reinfection could be as low as 19%

The highly transmissible Omicron variant can still infect a person even after they have recovered from a COVID-19 infection caused by the same variant, doctors said. 

Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and a Senior Fellow at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington D.C., said an Omicron reinfection is possible if the first infection was “low dose.” He added that people who are immunocompromised may also be at risk of reinfection. 

"There are lots of recent anecdotes about new Omicron reinfections after a recent Omicron infection. It’s certainly possible if your first Omicron infection was a low-dose one that didn’t stimulate your immune system enough or if you’re immunocompromised. Be careful folks," Feighl-Ding said in a tweet.  

His tweet was a response to a news story, which quoted Rutgers New Jersey Medical School professor Dr. Stanley Weiss saying that Omicron could infect a patient more than once. He cited a study by the Imperial College London that found the risk of the Omicron variant reinfection to be five times higher than the Delta variant. 

The study also found that protection offered by a past COVID-19 infection against reinfection with Omicron could be as low as 19%. Additionally, people who were two or more weeks past their second COVID-19 vaccine shot or booster dose were at an increased risk of developing symptomatic Omicron compared to Delta.

The findings of the study were also echoed by Dr. Ruth Berggen, an infectious disease doctor at UT Health San Antonio, who spoke to KSAT.

“Yes, you can get variants twice. That has been seen. Time will tell with greater detail whether it was different for Omicron than it was for Delta versus previous versions,” she said, adding that the best way to be protected against reinfection is to get vaccinated.

The Omicron variant, which makes up 98.3% of all new COVID-19 cases in the United States, is causing a surge of infections in the country, with health officials reporting over 800,000 new infections daily. 

Hospitalizations with COVID-19 have also seen record-high numbers. In at least 18 states, 85% of adult beds in Intensive Care Units are being used. In 24 states, at least 80% of all staffed hospital beds are also currently occupied, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the U.S. has recorded a total of 66,375,579 cases and 851,451 deaths. 

Early in the pandemic the WHO repeatedly suggested that facemasks worn by the general public risked doing more harm than good Early in the pandemic the WHO repeatedly suggested that facemasks worn by the general public risked doing more harm than good Photo: AFP / GABRIEL BOUYS