The World Health Organization has pushed back against the theory that individuals can only catch the coronavirus once, as well as proposals for reopening society that are based on this supposed immunity.
In a scientific brief dated Friday, the United Nations agency said the idea that one-time infection can lead to immunity remains unproven and is thus unreliable as a foundation for the next phase of the world’s response to the pandemic.
“Some governments have suggested that the detection of antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, could serve as the basis for an ‘immunity passport’ or ‘risk-free certificate’ that would enable individuals to travel or to return to work assuming that they are protected against re-infection,” the WHO wrote. “There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection.”
The statement comes days after Chile announced it would begin issuing immunity cards that effectively act as passports, allowing travelers to clear security at airports with a document that purportedly shows they have recovered from the virus. Authorities and researchers in other countries — such as France and the United Kingdom — have expressed interest in similar ideas, while some officials in the U.S., such as Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, have mentioned it as one possible facet of a reopening strategy.