Is It Possible To Catch The Omicron Variant Of COVID-19 More Than Once?

It's now year three of the pandemic, and there's a spike in COVID-19 infections due to the Omicron variant, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical officer to President Biden, has said that everyone will likely be exposed to this variant, vaccinated or not. However, most of the severe cases will be in those who are unvaccinated (via the Center for Strategic & International Studies). Knowing that many will get COVID-19 or at least be exposed to it, most people will have some protection against repeat infection, per the CDC

The Imperial College London conducts research on COVID-19 on an ongoing basis. From test swabs collected between January 5 and 20, the College found that 1 in 23 people had COVID-19. This infection rate is the highest they've seen since they began testing in May 2020, and it's three times higher than in December 2021. However, what's most concerning about this latest result is the rate of reinfections. Nearly 65% of people reported a prior coronavirus illness, meaning this is their second time getting COVID-19. So, how many of those referenced infections were from the Omicron variant?

Omicron infections

The data from the Imperial College London does not definitively indicate if those subjects who tested for reinfection in January 2022 got COVID-19 from Omicron. However, the data shows that 99% of the positive tests from January were from the Omicron variant, and only 1% were from the Delta variant. Researchers determined a nearly complete replacement of Delta by Omicron.

Stanley Weiss, M.D., professor at the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and the Department of Epidemiology at the Rutgers School of Public Health asserts that people can definitively get Omicron infections more than once, per Yahoo! News. The outlet reports, "[Weiss] cites a recent lecture he attended from a virologist in South Africa, where Omicron first emerged, who said that doctors in the country had seen several people who had Omicron reinfections."

UC David Health points out that Omicron may cause less severe illness compared to the Delta variant, which may result in fewer hospitalizations. However, Omicron is much more infectious. Given that Omicron is much more infectious, the CDC still recommends people take precautions including getting vaccinated, wearing protective masks, and staying at least six feet apart from others if possible.