How Many Times Can You Get Reinfected With the Same COVID Variant?

An illustration of COVID virus particles in different colors on a white background.


Key Takeaways

  • Reinfection is unlikely in the first few months after your first COVID-19 infection.
  • While it’s possible to be reinfected with the same COVID variant, we don’t know how often it could occur.
  • Experts say you should stay up-to-date with your vaccines and boosters to get at least some protection against reinfection.

As we enter year four of a world with COVID-19, contracting the disease more than once is no longer unheard of. A large part of that is due to variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which, like any virus, evolve to evade our immune systems and our vaccines. But is a new variant always to blame for a new infection? Can you become infected with the same COVID variant more than once?

Amesh Adalja, MD, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told Verywell that reinfection with the same COVID variant is unlikely for at least several months after the initial infection because of the level and specificity of the antibodies generated.

There’s no telling how many times it can occur because the number of reinfections is not really quantifiable, he added.

“For most of the population, a variant infection tends to move in waves, with one dominant variant infecting a population and then a different variant spreading at a later time,” Irfan Hafiz, MD, infectious diseases expert and chief medical officer at Northwestern Medicine McHenry Hospital, told Verywell.

Those who do not mount an adequate antibody response after the initial infection—for instance, immunocompromised individuals—may be re-infected with the same variant, Hafiz said.

Therefore, reinfection with the same variant is unlikely, but possible.

How Soon After I’ve Had COVID Could I Get Reinfected? 

It’s unlikely for someone who is not immunocompromised to be reinfected in the first couple of months—and possibly even longer—after their initial COVID infection, Adalja said. They probably won’t become reinfected with the same variant—another variant or subvariant (e.g., B.Q.1.1 is a subvariant of Omicron) may have emerged over the course of those months.

According to Adalja, several factors play a role in a person’s COVID reinfection risk:

  • Their immune status (e.g., are they immunocompromised)
  • How long it has been since their last COVID infection
  • The amount of exposure to the virus they had
  • The properties of the variant

Data shows that prior infection is about 92% effective in preventing symptomatic reinfection against the Delta variant, but only 56% effective against Omicron. 

Adalja said the evolution of more immune-evasive COVID variants has shortened the timeline of potential reinfection. For example, a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) back in April of 2022 identified 10 patients who were first infected by the Delta variant, then reinfected by the Omicron variant less than three months later. The shortest time between infections was 23 days.

These reinfection cases demonstrate the limits of infection-induced immunity against new variants.

How Can I Lower My Risk of COVID Reinfection?

Hafiz said a reinfection could be less severe due to antibodies from the previous infection—especially if it’s with the same variant. However, getting infected again still increases the risk of all-cause mortality and adverse health outcomes both in the acute and post-acute phases of reinfection.

The tips experts offer for lowering your chances of becoming reinfected with COVID—whether with the same variant or a new one—are the practices people have gotten used to at this point in the pandemic:

While vaccination may provide a lower degree of protection against reinfection with the Omicron variant compared to the Alpha and Delta variants, there is still a clear benefit to staying up to date with your COVID shots and boosters.

“Vaccination for yourself and the others around you is a key step in increasing herd immunity,” Hafiz said. “This will reduce the prevalence of the disease.”

What This Means For You

We don’t know how many times it’s possible to get reinfected with the same COVID variant, but we do know that reinfection carries risks. Getting vaccinated and boosted, as well as taking other precautions is still the best way to protect yourself from getting COVID—be it for the first time or the second.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  4. Nielsen KF, Moustsen-Helms IR, Schelde AB, et al. Vaccine effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2 reinfection during periods of Alpha, Delta, or Omicron dominance: a Danish nationwide study. PLoS Med. 2022;19(11):e1004037. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1004037

By Carla Delgado
Carla M. Delgado is a health and culture writer based in the Philippines.