Possibility of COVID reinfections “daunting” for the medical community — says Forbes

Possibility of COVID reinfections “daunting” for the medical community — says Forbes
Director of the National HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Programme Dr Nikkiah Forbes. (FILE PHOTO)

New Hong Kong study reveals first confirmed reinfection 

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The first confirmed coronavirus reinfection case in Hong Kong is very “unfortunate” and “daunting” news for the medical community, said Dr Nikkiah Forbes, Director of the National HIV/AIDS and Infectious Diseases Programme.

Researchers from the University of Hong Kong (HKU has revealed a 33-year-old man became reinfected with COVID-19 four and a half months after he first caught the virus.

“It’s very unfortunate and daunting news for us in the medical community,” Forbes said, when asked about the report during the Ministry of Health’s press conference.

“When you have a new outbreak virus you learn more and more about it every day.

“Before today’s report we had reason to think that immunity from COVID-19 would last for some period of time based on our previous experiences with viruses like this, the MERS- CoV and the first SARS.

“…Unfortunately, we did get that report that a male patient had COVID19 earlier in March and the he traveled to Spain and that he did get COVID1-9 again with a different strain.”

Forbes noted that based on the new information, “you could get reinfected with COVID19 and that immunity may not last”.

“It is challenging when we think about that,” she said.

“…He is the first case reported today. We will wait and hear more but definitely daunting, not good based upon what we have heard.”

The report said the patient was infected in March and later discharged.

In August, he went to Spain and on his return to Hong Kong via London, he was confirmed as infected.

Researchers said the say genome sequencing shows the two strains of the virus are “clearly different”.

While presumed reinfections have been reported around the world, including in the United States, the HKU study was the first in the world to be confirmed through rigorous testing.

The report further noted that vaccines might not be able to provide lifelong protection against Covid-19, and patients who had recovered from the coronavirus should also be included in vaccine studies.

The study is expected to be published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Dr. Merceline Dahl-Regis, consultant in the Office of Prime Minister and the coordinator in the government’s COVID-19 response in the first wave, noted that with new evidence of reinfection, the protection from vaccines comes into play.

Dahl-Regis, who has been working in infectious diseases for over 30-years, noted that vaccine immunity and the protection from vaccines will play a significant role in the continued fight against COVID and new information on reinfection.

“I would submit to you that once the country is satisfied that the vaccine is safe, affordable and accessible – noting that management of adverse events following vaccines, all that criteria has been taken care of – there is no reason why we shouldn’t be in line to receive those vaccines.”

Dahl-Regis explained the process of new vaccinations and how they are approved before public consumption.

New vaccines must be prequalified and meet all GM standards.

She explained that there are seven stages that vaccines must go through before they can be approved and once approved by the national regulatory country in that country, a recommendation is sought by the World Health Organization on the guidance of the availability of the vaccines.

The manufacturers would then contract with the various large organizations to manage these vaccines, she said.

“We have historically been the beneficiary of the revolving fund for vaccines where we receive the vaccines and we have the opportunity to look at the delivery methods of the vaccine,” Dahl-Regis added.

“…But if we have the access of that vaccine through our current channels we could be guaranteed safety of the vaccinees.”