Having had COVID-19 before provides better immunity from infection again when compared to the Oxford vaccine, researchers have said.

However, the Pfizer vaccine gives the same level of protection of reinfection five months later when compared to those who have already had the condition.

The study was carried out by Public Health England (PHE) which used data from more than 20,000 healthcare workers from more than 100 sites across the country.

In early 2020 when the first wave struck, 6,614 workers were found to have had the virus. Just 44 of those people later tested positive after becoming reinfected.

PHE researcher say this findings means previous infection confers 83% protection against reinfection.

Professor Susan Hopkins from PHE, lead author of the study, said: “This study has given us the clearest picture to date of the nature of antibody protection against COVID-19 but it is critical people do not misunderstand these early findings.

“We now know that most of those who have had the virus, and developed antibodies, are protected  from reinfection, but this is not total and we do not yet know how long protection la”sts. Crucially, we believe people may still be able to pass the virus on.

This means even if you believe you already had the disease and are protected, you can be reassured it is highly unlikely you will develop severe infections but there is still a risk that you could acquire an infection and transmit to others. Now more than ever it is vital we all stay at home to protect our health service and save lives.”

The findings are part of the PHE’s (SARS-CoV-2 Immunity and Reinfection EvaluatioN) SIREN study which has already determined that antibody protection lasts for at least five months.

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