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Health Highlights: Jan. 15, 2021

By Robert Preidt HealthDay Reporter

Previous Coronavirus Infection May Confer Immunity for at Least 5 Months

Immunity against the new coronavirus can last for at least five months in most people who've been infected, British researchers report.

The Public Health England team analyzed data from months of regular testing of health care workers. They found that a person who's been infected is 83% less likely to catch the coronavirus again over five months, compared to a person who hadn't been infected, CBS News reported.

The stretch of partial immunity begins when a person first becomes sick.

However, the researchers said that even if a previously infected person has immunity, they may still be able to carry the virus and infect others, CBS News reported.

"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," Susan Hopkins, senior medical advisor at Public Health England, said in a statement.

"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 lasts," she said. "Crucially, we believe people may still be able to pass the virus on."

The British scientists plan to follow people in the study for a year, to see how long immunity lasts, how well the vaccines work, and to figure out whether people who've had the virus can pass it to others. They will also look at whether prior infection with COVID-19 provides any protection against the more contagious variant that has surfaced in that country in recent months, CBS News reported.

New Warp Speed Co-Leader Picked by Biden

Former FDA Commissioner Dr. David Kessler has been chosen by President-elect Joe Biden to help lead Operation Warp Speed, Biden transition officials said Thursday.

The program seeks to speed development of coronavirus vaccines and treatments in the United States.

Kessler is a pediatrician and lawyer who led the Food and Drug Administration under former presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton. He's been a close adviser to Biden on COVID-19 policy and is co-chair of the transition team's pandemic task force, The New York Times reported.

Kessler will replace Dr. Moncef Slaoui and will share Operation Warp Speed leadership with Gen. Gustave Perna.

Kessler will oversee manufacturing, distribution and the safety and efficacy of vaccines and treatments, while Perna will continue as chief operating officer, theTimes reported.

Kessler will join Operation Warp Speed as it struggles to get vaccines out to Americans -- a complex task that it shares with numerous federal, state and local authorities.

Back in the 1990s, Kessler worked closely with Dr. Anthony Fauci to speed the development and approval of drugs that changed the course of the AIDS epidemic, the Times reported.

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