COVID-19 antibodies wane over time; herd immunity may be hard to achieve, study finds

The number of people with COVID-19 antibodies decreased by 26.5 percent between June 20 and Sept. 28, suggesting that contracting the virus might not mean gaining long-lasting immunity, according to a study conducted by Imperial College London and Ipsos Mori, a London-based polling organization.

The study, funded by the British government, surveyed 365,104 adults in England who tested themselves at home with a finger-prick test for COVID-19 antibodies. The study, published Oct. 26, has not been peer reviewed.  

Four key findings: 

1. Six percent of the participants had virus antibodies June 20, compared to 4.4 percent on Sept. 28.  

2. The findings suggest 18 to 24-year-olds lose antibodies at a slower rate than those 75 and older.  

3. People who didn't exhibit symptoms were likely to lose detectable antibodies before those who did show symptoms. 

4. By the end of September, 13.8 percent of Black people and 9.7 percent of Asians had antibodies, compared to 3.6 percent of white people.  

If the study's findings are confirmed, the prospect of widespread long-term herd immunity may be difficult to achieve.

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