You’ve had COVID-19 and thought it wasn’t as bad as the media has been making it out to be. Maybe you felt under the weather for a little while, and lost your sense of taste and smell for a few weeks, but now you feel fine. You feel you have the antibodies to this novel virus, so you shouldn’t need the vaccine, right? Wrong, say scientists — and for very valid reasons.
The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention answers this question definitively right on its Frequently Asked Questions page. “Yes, you should be vaccinated regardless of whether you already had COVID-19. That’s because experts do not yet know how long you are protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19.”
Other medical experts cite the variants spreading around much of the country that deviate a bit from the original SARS-CoV-2 virus strain that began circulating in humans in 2019. Dr. Becky Smith, an infectious disease doctor at Duke University Medical Center, told CNN, “We are not sure if natural immunity will protect someone from getting infected with the new strains.”
Dr. Antonio Crespo, director of infectious disease at the Orlando Health Medical Group, concurred. “The risk of reinfection remains low, but we have to be vigilant with the emergence of the new variants,” he told CNN.
Is a COVID-19 vaccine more effective than natural antibodies?
Although there is consensus that natural antibodies developed from being infected do offer some protection against COVID-19, vaccines offer better protection. For people who exhibited no symptoms or just mild symptoms, antibodies also may disappear faster, as reported by UCLAHealth.org.
“A UCLA study shows that in people with mild cases of COVID-19, antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes the disease — drop sharply over the first three months after infection, decreasing by roughly half every 36 days.”
Dr. Becky Smith from the Duke University Medical Center told CNN that the vaccines can offer something like a top-up to those who had a mild or asymptomatic case of COVID-19. “It is very clear that the two available vaccines afford a high level of protection as measured in neutralizing antibody titers. This may be particularly important for people who had an asymptomatic or mild infection,” she said.
Cautions if you have had COVID-19 and want the vaccine
According to CNN, people should wait until they are no longer experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and they are sure the infection has cleared their body before receiving any of the vaccines. Also, if you had COVID-19 and were treated with monoclonal antibodies, you should wait at least 90 days before getting vaccinated, according to The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Finally, there have been reports that those who had the virus only need one dose of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Duke University’s Dr. Becky Smith told CNN that not enough research has been done as of yet to determine if one shot is enough, and even if you had COVID-19, you should keep to the two-dose regimen. Pfizer recommends both doses should be taken three weeks apart, while Moderna recommends four weeks.
“Logically, people who have had COVID infection are likely to start with a baseline of some detectable neutralizing antibody so you are not starting from scratch like you would be for individuals who never had COVID,” she said. “However, the amount of neutralizing antibodies decreases over time so this needs to be carefully studied before rolling it out.”
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