Research by Imperial College London estimated just 4.4 percent of adults had some form of immunity against COVID-19 in September when cases began to increase again. This is compared with six percent found to have antibodies between June 20 and July 13, and 4.8 percent between July 31 and August 31. Experts said the data from the Real-Time Assessment of Community Transmission (React-2) study showed immunity was “waning quite rapidly”, which could lead to an increased risk of reinfection.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Professor Elliott said: “It’s possible that people might need booster vaccines.
“For some viruses, there’s lifelong immunity.
“For the coronavirus that doesn’t seem to be the case.
“We know that the immunity can fluctuate so this needs to be something that’s looked at very carefully.”
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Some 365,104 adults took part in three rounds of testing for the study between late June and September to measure the prevalence of coronavirus antibodies in England.
The study found that antibody levels fell by 26.5 percent overall during the three-month period.
Those aged 18-24 had the highest prevalence of antibodies and lowest decline in antibody levels at 14.9 percent.
Meanwhile, people aged 75 and over had the lowest prevalence and saw the largest drop, with antibody levels falling by 39 percent.
The study found there was no change in antibody positivity in healthcare workers between June and September.
Helen Ward, professor of Public Health at Imperial College London, said this could indicate “ongoing transmission” of coronavirus in those settings or “repeated exposure”.
Asked about herd immunity, Prof Ward said: “Even at best, (in the first round of the study) 94 percent of the population remained not likely protected, and now that has declined to over 95 percent of the population who don’t have evidence of antibodies.
“So I think we are a long, long way from any idea that the population will be protected by other people.”
She added that immunity in England was “waning quite rapidly”.