Need to Know: COVID-19 Vaccines After COVID Infection
While some people develop natural immunity after a COVID-19 infection, the duration and protection from the virus varies widely. We also know that people can get COVID-19 more than once. Just like an initial infection, a second (or third) illness can range from mild, to severe, to life-threatening.
New variants may increase the risk of re-infection. In particular, the Omicron variant—which is currently the predominant variant in the United States—has been shown to lead to more reinfections than any other previously reported variant.
The CDC recommends that everyone be vaccinated against COVID-19 regardless of whether or not they have been previously infected.
Here are some answers to the most commonly asked questions about natural immunity, vaccine protection and COVID-19 re-infection.
For some individuals, infection with the virus that causes COVID-19 will create long-lasting immunity. However, it’s still unclear how long individuals are protected following an infection. Additionally, there is no way to predict the strength of your natural immunity. Vaccinating those who have been previously infected will provide an additional layer of protection against reinfection.
The CDC states that COVID-19 vaccines offer better and more reliable protection against severe COVID-19.
Compared to natural infection, studies have shown that vaccination provides a more consistent immune response and, in many cases, produces more antibodies than what our bodies create through natural infection.
The effectiveness of existing vaccines against new variants is continuously monitored. A new strain of COVID-19 may reduce vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic COVID-19. However, vaccination continually protects against serious illness, hospitalization or death. For those who’ve already had COVID-19, vaccination actually produces a better immune response against variants.
Vaccine antibodies combined with natural immunity from a previous COVID-19 infection is known as “hybrid immunity.” Hybrid immunity may give the best protection against COVID-19 and its variants. Someone with hybrid immunity has a stronger immune response to a new COVID-19 exposure than someone who’s had two doses of the mRNA vaccine but has never been ill.
You can receive COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you have completed your isolation period. However, the CDC has noted that current evidence suggests reinfection is uncommon in the 90 days after infection, and thus, persons with documented acute infection in the preceding 90 days may defer vaccination until the end of this period, if desired. Talk to your health care provider about the best time to receive the vaccine after you’ve tested positive for COVID-19.
Get Vaccinated as Soon as Possible
The CDC recommends that everyone be vaccinated against COVID-19 regardless of whether they have been previously infected.
Protect yourself, your loved ones and your community from the virus by following safety guidelines against COVID-19:
- Wear a mask outside the home and especially in public spaces.
- Practice social distancing at least six feet from others.
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Cover any coughs or sneezes with your elbow or a tissue.
- Avoid areas where COVID transmission is high, if possible.
- Follow CDC recommendations for testing and isolation if you develop symptoms.
New data shows that people who are vaccinated following infection may have the best protection from COVID-19, especially against newer variants. If you’ve already had COVID-19 getting fully vaccinated may be the best way to protect you, your family and your community and help slow the spread of the virus.