Risk of SARS-CoV-2 reinfection during multiple Omicron variant waves in the UK general population

Jia Wei*, Nicole Stoesser, Philippa C. Matthews, Tarnjit Khera, Owen Gethings, Ian Diamond, Ruth Studley, Nick Taylor, Tim E.A. Peto, A. Sarah Walker, Koen B. Pouwels, David W. Eyre, Emma Rourke, Tina Thomas, Dawid Pienaar, Joy Preece, Sarah Crofts, Lina Lloyd, Michelle Bowen, Daniel AyoubkhaniRussell Black, Antonio Felton, Megan Crees, Joel Jones, Esther Sutherland, Derrick W. Crook, Emma Pritchard, Karina Doris Vihta, Alison Howarth, Brian D. Marsden, Kevin K. Chau, Lucas Martins Ferreira, Wanwisa Dejnirattisai, Juthathip Mongkolsapaya, Sarah Hoosdally, Richard Cornall, David I. Stuart, Gavin Screaton, Katrina Lythgoe, David Bonsall, Tanya Golubchik, Helen Fryer, John N. Newton, John I. Bell, Stuart Cox, Kevin Paddon, Tim James, Thomas House, Julie Robotham, Paul Birrell, Helena Jordan, Tim Sheppard, Graham Athey, Dan Moody, Leigh Curry, Pamela Brereton, Ian Jarvis, Anna Godsmark, George Morris, Bobby Mallick, Phil Eeles, Jodie Hay, Harper VanSteenhouse, Jessica Lee, Sean White, Tim Evans, Lisa Bloemberg, Katie Allison, Anouska Pandya, Sophie Davis, David I. Conway, Margaret MacLeod, Chris Cunningham

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


SARS-CoV-2 reinfections increased substantially after Omicron variants emerged. Large-scale community-based comparisons across multiple Omicron waves of reinfection characteristics, risk factors, and protection afforded by previous infection and vaccination, are limited. Here we studied ~45,000 reinfections from the UK’s national COVID-19 Infection Survey and quantified the risk of reinfection in multiple waves, including those driven by BA.1, BA.2, BA.4/5, and BQ.1/CH.1.1/XBB.1.5 variants. Reinfections were associated with lower viral load and lower percentages of self-reporting symptoms compared with first infections. Across multiple Omicron waves, estimated protection against reinfection was significantly higher in those previously infected with more recent than earlier variants, even at the same time from previous infection. Estimated protection against Omicron reinfections decreased over time from the most recent infection if this was the previous or penultimate variant (generally within the preceding year). Those 14–180 days after receiving their most recent vaccination had a lower risk of reinfection than those >180 days from their most recent vaccination. Reinfection risk was independently higher in those aged 30–45 years, and with either low or high viral load in their most recent previous infection. Overall, the risk of Omicron reinfection is high, but with lower severity than first infections; both viral evolution and waning immunity are independently associated with reinfection.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2024

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