Covid-19: What if immunity wanes?

Alper Çenesiz, Luís Guimarães

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Using a simple economic model in which social distancing reduces contagion, we study the implications of waning immunity for the epidemiological dynamics and social activity. If immunity wanes, we find that COVID-19 likely becomes endemic and that social distancing is here to stay until the discovery of a vaccine or cure. But waning immunity does not necessarily change optimal actions on the onset of the pandemic. Decentralized equilibria are virtually independent of waning immunity until close to peak infections. For centralized equilibria, the relevance of waning immunity decreases in the probability of finding a vaccine or cure, the costs of infection (e.g., infection–fatality rate), the degree of partial immunity and the presence of other NPIs that lower contagion (e.g., quarantining and mask use). In simulations calibrated to July 2020, our model suggests that waning immunity is virtually unimportant for centralized equilibria until at least 2021. This provides vital time for individuals and policy-makers to learn about immunity against SARS-CoV-2 before it becomes critical.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)626-664
Number of pages39
JournalCanadian Journal of Economics
Issue numberS1
Publication statusPublished - 03 Mar 2022


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