Ask an Expert: The Future of COVID-19 and the Role of Immune Response Investigation

Dr Mark Ali

In this latest edition of our COVID-19 Information Blog, Medical Director of Private Harley Street Clinic, Dr Mark Ali talks about the future of COVID-19 after restrictions end and how we can stay informed about our own immune response to the virus.

"As we approach the end of lockdown and a more normal world begins to open up, the COVID-19 virus, sadly, remains prevalent, although deaths and hospitalisations have thankfully fallen drastically in the last few weeks. 

Given we have already identified several mutations of this virus since the start of the pandemic, it appears that life beyond lockdown will be a matter of living with the virus and its mutations, much in the same way we live with influenza and its many iterations.

Unfortunately, the growing number of reports of recently diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in individuals that have been double vaccinated demonstrates that previous infection or vaccination isn't a guarantee of immunity from another infection.

I think its highly likely that someone who has already been infected with COVID-19 will be immune to that exact strain of the virus in the future - however, as we've mentioned, it's likely that this virus behaves in much the same way as the flu virus, in the sense that none of us assumes because we have had a flu jab or have had flu last year, that we won't catch flu this coming year. This is because the flu virus mutates year-on-year and sometimes even within the space of a year, as indeed the COVID-19 virus has. And that is to be expected - after all, it’s a member of the Coronavirus family, just like the flu virus that we are all so familiar with.

Ultimately, this means that the next phase of the pandemic may potentially last years, with recurring episodes of infection. Vulnerable people will understandably be concerned when these episodes occur and individuals and the NHS will want to plan accordingly.

Of course, it goes without saying that everybody should continue to take precautions around hygiene, face masks in crowded areas and looking after their immune system as best they can.

If people are curious to understand what their immunity status is at present, so that decisions regarding returning to work, traveling and socialising with family and friends can be as informed as possible, they should get in touch with Private Harley Street Clinic. We know that there are two arms of immunity against Covid-19 virus, namely the antibody response and the T cell response and we're pleased to be the first UK clinic able to offer both tests, to assess whether an individual shows evidence of either or both protective immune responses to COVID-19"

A combined T cell and Antibody test is now available at our Marylebone clinic. To view our Immune Response Testing Options, please click here.