Can You Get COVID Twice?

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, MS, DO on July 15, 2022
3 min read

If you’ve had COVID-19, you probably know the drill – masks, social distancing, tests, quarantine, and recovery. Maybe you got vaccines and boosters for extra protection.

But now you have chills, fever, a scratchy throat, and a runny nose. Could you have COVID-19 again?

It’s possible.

Research shows you can get it twice. Even more than twice, in some cases. Here’s everything you need to know about COVID-19 reinfection.

After you’ve recovered from your first bout of COVID-19, you have some protection against the virus. But research on the older variants found that the natural immunity (specific antibodies) your body builds against COVID -19 goes away 2-3 months after infection.

Researchers are studying the newer variants to learn when you might be at the most risk for reinfection.

If you’re vaccinated against COVID-19, it’s still possible to get reinfected and spread it to others. When the coronavirus gets past your vaccine immunity, doctors call it a “breakthrough infection.” That’s because COVID-19 vaccines work better at protecting you against some variants than others. But you’re less likely to have serious symptoms or be hospitalized if you’ve been vaccinated.

Ever since the coronavirus began to infect people, it’s mutated and created many variants. These mutations, or changes in the virus’s genes, allow it to get past the protection your body or the COVID-19 vaccine can offer. This makes some variants more contagious (transmissible), or easy to spread, than others. This can also increase your odds of reinfection with every new COVID-19 wave.

For example, the Delta variant, prevalent in early to mid-2021, was thought to be the most contagious. But the more recent Omicron variant is now the top (dominant) variant in the U.S. Research shows it spreads faster, and more easily, than both the Delta variant and the original virus that caused COVID-19.

It’s hard to know if the same variant can infect you twice. That’s because COVID-19 tests don’t identify variants.

But your doctor might assume you have the variant causing most COVID-19 infections at the time you get sick. Currently, the Omicron offshoot causing most infections is BA.5.

Anyone can get COVID-19 more than once. But some people have more risk of reinfection.

Unvaccinated people. Studies show unvaccinated people who’ve already had COVID-19 are more than twice as likely as fully vaccinated people to get reinfected. That’s because vaccines protect you longer than natural immunity.

Immunocompromised people. If you have a weak immune system, you’re more likely to get COVID-19 again, even if you’re vaccinated and you’ve had the virus before. That’s because the vaccine may not be as effective for you. Doctors recommend taking booster shots to lower your odds of reinfection.

If you’re an essential worker who comes into contact with people often, like a health care worker or a first responder, that exposure makes you more likely to get COVID-19 again.

To avoid getting COVID-19 again, follow the same steps you might’ve taken to prevent it in the first place. You should:

  • Get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. If you’re 5 or above, you’re also eligible for booster shots. If you have immune system problems or you work in health care, you might need more booster shots. Talk to your doctor about it.
  • Wear a well-fitting mask in crowded spaces or indoors. Make sure it covers your nose and mouth.
  • Socially distance whenever possible. Stay 6 feet away from others.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. Or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
  • Disinfect surfaces you use regularly, like countertops, handles, desks, and phones.
  • Take precautions when you travel.

Show Sources


CDC: “COVID-19 after Vaccination: Possible Breakthrough Infection,” “Reinfections and COVID-19,” “How to Protect Yourself & Others,” “Quarantine and Isolation,” “Omicron Variant: What You Need to Know,” “Science Brief: SARS-CoV-2 Infection-induced and Vaccine-induced Immunity.”

Science: “Increased risk of SARS-CoV-2 reinfection associated with emergence of Omicron in South Africa.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Can You Get COVID-19 Twice?”

Mayo Clinic: “Should I get a COVID-19 vaccine if I’ve already had COVID-19?”

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