How long can you be immune to COVID? A Vanderbilt study is exploring that.

Vanderbilt Medical
Posted at 5:11 PM, Nov 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-13 19:32:09-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Like so many that have already battled COVID-19, Tracy Waller thought, nearly three months after her diagnosis, she was in the clear.

"I think I did walk around feeling a little bit invincible - like I’ve already had this," said Waller.

That is, until a few weeks ago. "The telltale sign is to wake up and not have any sense of taste or smell, and so once again I really was a little bit stunned, but I thought, 'this is classic COVID symptoms,'" said Waller.

A test confirmed she tested positive, yet again, for COVID-19. "I’m still in quarantine and I should be finished early next week," she said.

We asked infectious disease expert Dr. William Schaffner about the potential to get COVID-19 more than once.

"Can people get infected twice? Is this just an odd event or will this occur more frequently," we asked.

"Chris -- we don’t know the answers to all of those yet. It will take some time, but I will tell you, a lot of people are trying to find out," said Dr. Schaffner.

One of those people trying to figure it out is Dr. Natasha Halasa, Professor of Pediatric Infections at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

"Because it’s new, we don’t know the long term of how long someone has immunity for -- we don’t know what kind of immune response they have," said Dr. Halasa.

Halasa is leading a VUMC study tracking more than 700 patients of all ages that either had COVID, have it now or may in the future.

"When it’s safe, our team actually goes to their homes," she said.

They periodically draw blood samples for comparisons and hope to be able to eventually answer questions like -- why children seem to far better against the virus than adults and how long does immunity last?

"This can be helpful also to understand if you’re going to make a vaccine -- is the vaccine going to be a short term protection or a long term protection," explained Dr. Halasa.

Tracy hopes to be a part of that solution. She's one of the hundreds that have committed to the study. She hopes one day we'll all have a clearer picture.

"It’s something I feel like everyone should be willing to do for the greater good," said Waller.

Halasa's study is partially funded by community donations. If you'd like to contribute, click here.