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How long will you be protected? New data shows COVID-19 immunity could last years

The study comes from scientists at La Jolla Institute for Immunology.

TAMPA, Fla — As coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to rise across the country, a new study is giving the scientific community -- and some COVID-19 survivors --hope. 

In labs just outside the heart of San Diego, scientists set out to answer one question: How long does the immuno-response last?

One-hundred and eighty-seven people who recovered from the COVID-19 became the center of a study from a group at La Jolla Institute for Immunology. The goal was to see if immunity will last six to eight months.

"It is! What we saw were really good responses all around," senior author Dr. Alessandro Sette said. 

There are two phases the body goes through to create immunity. The first is the Effector Phase. Once infected with COVID-19, the body makes "Killer T" cells, "Helper T" cells and antibodies to fight the virus.

Then, in what's called the Memory Phase, most of the cells go away, but some change into memory cells that stay in your body. The next time the body sees the COVID-19, the cells will perk up and make antibodies to fight the virus. 

The new study says those memory cells last anywhere from eight months to several years. It isn't peer-reviewed yet, but the scientific world is still optimistic.

"I see it as a positive thing. They're a really top-notch immunology lab, so it's unlikely to change under peer review. These are the kind of really clean, well-done results that you expect from this group," said Dr. Michael Teng with USF Health.

The virologist says heightened immunity won't mean people can't get COVID-19 again.

"There is a very small percentage of people who will mount a great immune response the first time they see the virus, and they could potentially get infected. But the vast majority of us looks like we're gonna make a pretty good immune response and be able to be protected," Teng said.

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