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COVID-19 recovery should confer ‘some level’ of immunity, former FDA chief says

Health officials are still investigating the impact of having recovered from the virus

Photo (c) MF3d - Getty Images
Former FDA chief Dr. Scott Gottlieb said he believes that most people who got and then recovered from COVID-19 will be left with “some level” of immunity to the virus. 

On CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Monday, Gottlieb said there are still questions about how immune consumers are to COVID-19 if they have already been sickened by the virus. Specifically, he says the duration and strength of the immunity are open questions.

“Now how long that immunity lasts, how strong it is, we don’t know. It might not last that long in certain people. It might not be that strong, so you can get reinfected but perhaps not get as sick,” he said.

WHO advises against ‘immunity passports’

Gottlieb statements were in response to a warning published Friday by the World Health Organization (WHO). The organization said governments should refrain from issuing “immunity passports” to people who have antibodies for COVID-19. 

Until more scientific information is available, WHO officials said we shouldn’t assume these individuals are protected against reinfection and therefore healthy enough to travel or go back to work. 

“There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection,” the organization wrote in a scientific brief.

Over the weekend, the WHO clarified in a series of tweets that it expects COVID-19 antibodies to provide “some level of protection” against the virus, but health officials still aren’t sure how far that protection goes. 

“We expect that most people who are infected with #COVID19 will develop an antibody response that will provide some level of protection,” the WHO tweeted on Saturday. “What we don't yet know is the level of protection or how long it will last.” 

“We are working with scientists around the world to better understand the body's response to #COVID19 infection. So far, no studies have answered these important questions.”

Some level of immunity

Gottlieb agreed that having fought and recovered from COVID-19 likely won’t guarantee 100 percent immunity to it, but he argued that the WHO’s statement was “characteristically cautious and muddled.” 

“If this behaves like every other virus, and every other coronavirus, you’re going to develop antibodies and they’ll confer some level of immunity,” said Gottlieb.

“It’s fair to say, if you have antibodies, you test yourself and you have antibodies, it’s no guarantee you can’t get it again. That’s a reasonable statement. But you’re going to have some level of immunity.” 

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