Now that the COVID epidemic is receding in the United States, a critical question is how long will the immunity to the disease persist in patients who have recovered from the infection or in subjects who have been vaccinated against it? A study published in Nature suggests that immunity may last a lifetime.

The study examines a small number of subjects and is tentative; but it suggests that immunity to the virus may last a long time. Also possible is the need for booster shots to ensure long term immunity. Persistent immunity to viral diseases post infection or inoculation is a well defined phenomenon. Immunity to smallpox lasts a lifetime. The most likely status for the coronavirus is that it will permanently disappear or that yearly shots for the virus will be needed as is the case for the flu. Either way, the worst seems over. Hopefully, we’ll learn some lessons from this epidemic and respond to future ones, which will certainly happen, with a more reasoned and calm public health effort.

Turning a serious infection into an international catastrophe is not something we should be eager to repeat. Experience may be the best teacher, but only if the student stays awake and listens. The whole COVID mess is another unneeded example of the combustible mix of medicine and politics.