An estimated 1 in 7 people had antibodies to the CCP virus in England in January, according to an analysis of a nationwide blood-test survey.
The analysis, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), uses blood-test data collected during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey to test for antibodies. It excludes infections reported in hospitals and care homes.
In London, 1 in 5 people had antibodies—the highest in the country. In the Southwest, which had the lowest levels of infection, around 1 in 12 had antibodies.
The data comes from the 28 days before Jan. 18, roughly corresponding with the peak of the virus that pushed deaths and hospitalisations to record levels.
According to the ONS report, it takes 2 to 3 weeks for the body to produce enough antibodies to combat the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus, commonly called the novel coronavirus.
“Once a person recovers, antibodies remain in the blood at low levels, although these levels can decline over time to the point that tests can no longer detect them,” the ONS report states.
An official study last month showed that natural immunity is comparable to the protection from a vaccine.
The Public Health England (PHE) study of health care workers concluded that having previously had the disease gave people at least 83 percent, but up to 99 percent, immunity. That protection from reinfection would last for a minimum of five months.
“The take-home message from this study is that a primary infection with SARS-CoV-2 provides at least 94 percent protection against symptomatic reinfection for at least 5 months,” Eleanor Riley, professor of immunology and infectious disease at the University of Edinburgh, said in a statement at the time.
“This suggests that natural infection provides short term protection against COVID-19 that is very similar to that conferred by vaccination.”
The latest report comes as official data shows that the peak of the current wave appears to have passed.
Infections have been falling since the start of January, and the official daily death toll has been falling for about a week. Hospitalizations have also been falling, but like deaths, are still at a higher level than during the spring peak last year.
The impact of the UK’s vaccination programs—one of the most successful so far in the world—on the pandemic wave has yet to be seen clearly in the data, according to scientists.
Researchers announced today, however, that the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine can significantly reduce transmission.
The transmission is reduced by 67 percent after the first dose of the vaccine, according to an analysis of swabs obtained from UK volunteers.
In a paper currently under review at medical journal The Lancet, researchers say that a single standard dose of the vaccine is “76 percent effective at protecting from primary symptomatic COVID-19 for the first 90 days post-vaccination, once the immune system has built this protection 22 days after the vaccination, with the protection showing little evidence of waning in this period.”
Alexander Zhang contributed to this report