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Why You Should Get Vaccinated Even Though You Had COVID

The idea that you should get vaccinated even after having a natural infection isn’t new.

“There are three serotypes of wild poliovirus type 1, type 2, and type 3 each with a slightly different capsid protein. Immunity to one serotype does not give confer immunity to the other two.”

The Polio Virus

While natural immunity is good, often immunity from a vaccine is even better.

Why You Should Get Vaccinated Even Though You Had COVID

In addition to the fact that many vaccines sometimes offer broader protection against multiple serotypes of a disease, there is the simple fact that some natural infections don’t provide life-long immunity.

What happens if you are unvaccinated and you get and survive a natural tetanus infection?

Do you develop life-long immunity to tetanus?

“…people who recover from tetanus do not have natural immunity and can be infected again.”

Tetanus

Nope.

What about COVID-19?

“Getting COVID-19 may offer some protection, known as natural immunity. Current evidence suggests that reinfection with the virus that causes COVID-19 is uncommon in the months after initial infection, but may increase with time.”

Benefits of Getting Vaccinated

So far, results from studies confirm that you should get vaccinated, even after you had a natural COVID-19 infection.

There is the Denmark study, which found that fewer than 50% of those over 65 years of age were protected against a repeat infection after having COVID-19.

“Despite evidence of an effective acquired immune response after COVID‐19, some studies have shown that patients with mild symptoms have developed a weaker and less lasting immune response to the virus, with a decrease in the level of antibodies after 2–3 months of infection.

Reinfection of COVID‐19 after 3 months with a distinct and more aggressive clinical presentation: Case report

And case reports and studies that have found evidence of reinfection in those who have had natural infections.

In contrast, there is plenty of evidence that COVID-19 vaccines are safe, with few risks, and are highly effective.

How Long After You Had COVID Do You Have to Wait to Get Vaccinated?

If you are currently sick with COVID-19, you should wait until you get your COVID-19 vaccine.

How long?

“If you were treated for COVID-19 with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, you should wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine.”

Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccination

At least 90 days if you were treated with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma.

“While there is no recommended minimum interval between infection and vaccination, current evidence suggests that the risk of SARS-CoV-2 reinfection is low in the months after initial infection but may increase with time due to waning immunity. While vaccine supply remains limited, people with recent documented acute SARS-CoV-2 infection may choose to temporarily delay vaccination, if desired. However, they should recognize that the risk of reinfection and, therefore, the need for vaccination, can increase with time following initial infection.”

COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs for Healthcare Professionals

For everyone else, they can get their COVID-19 vaccine as soon as they are out of their isolation period, so that they are no longer contagious when they go and get vaccinated.

What About Antibody-Dependent Enhancement?

Antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) occurs when antibodies, instead of blocking an infection, make it much worse.

While ADE is a real thing, sometimes occurring after vaccination with the Dengue virus vaccine, for example, we have fortunately not seen it with COVID-19 and our COVID-19 vaccines.

“So here’s the short version: no sign of ADE during the preclinical animal studies. No sign during the human clinical trials. No sign during the initial vaccine rollouts into the population. And (so far) no sign of ADE even with the variant strains in different parts of the world. We have things to worry about in this pandemic, but as far as I can tell today, antibody-dependent enhancement does not seem to be one of them.”

Antibody-Dependent Enhancement and the Coronavirus Vaccines

In fact, breakthrough infections after vaccination are uncommon and when they occur, are typically milder than a natural infection.

It is possible to get COVID-19 twice, especially if you didn't get vaccinated after you had COVID.

And unfortunately, that’s not always the case if you get reinfected with COVID-19, getting a second natural infection. While these cases are also uncommon and are typically mild, sometimes they aren’t.

The Bottom Line on Getting Vaccinated After Having COVID

COVID-19 vaccines are safe, with few risks, and getting everyone vaccinated and protected, building to herd immunity levels of protection, is how we end the pandemic.

Since you will likely develop better protection after getting vaccinated, even if you have already had a natural COVID-19 infection, there is no good reason to skip or delay getting your COVID-19 vaccine series.

More on COVID-19 Vaccines

2 thoughts on “Why You Should Get Vaccinated Even Though You Had COVID”

  1. I’ve also been intrigued by the reports of people with prolonged COVID19 symptoms feeling better after getting vaccinated. There’s really no reason to not get vaccinated unless you’re one of the rare people with a known allergy to one of the ingredients.

  2. 1) If you get vaccinated after an infection, you should only get one dose. One study found that the 2nd dose causes severe side effects, as it’s basically a 2nd booster. Another study found that t-cells decreased after the 2nd dose for those who were infected, meaning the 2nd dose was somewhat detrimental.

    2) A recent study found that reinfection in an age group similar to those studied in vaccine trials was 10% after about one year. Compare this to 5% vaccine failure over only 12 weeks or so in the trials. After one year, I expect failure rate of the vaccines to be higher than reinfection rate after natural infection. Reinfection rates are high either way, and just proves what we already thought: sterilizing immunity to respiratory viruses is not practical. The vaccines and natural infection are important for generating a t-cell response, which makes subsequent infections much less severe.

    3) The vaccines are much less effective at preventing infection in people with compromised immune systems – particularly the elderly. While natural infection protection is lower in the elderly, protection offered by the vaccines seems to be even lower. CDC numbers indicate a high rate of breakthrough infections in vaccinated elderly people. However, the vaccine will still mostly protect these people from serious illness or death.

    4) Given this, the best course of action is to get a single booster shot after natural infection. However, those naturally infected and not vaccinated are probably protected to a similar degree as those vaccinated and never infected.

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