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If You Already Had COVID, Do You Need the COVID Vaccine?

Published in Infectious Diseases, For the Health of It Author: Thomas Math,MD

More than 15 million Americans have been infected by the COVID-19 virus. Many may be questioning whether they need to get the coronavirus vaccine.

The short answer is “Yes.”

Currently, more than 130,000 COVID-19 vaccinations have been distributed in Minnesota. At this time, the vaccine has been prioritized to health care providers and those living in long-term care facilities. But as the state receives more vaccines, it is hoped it will become available to essential frontline workers and those 75 and older in the coming months. And then eventually it should become available to next “priority group” which is those 65 and older and those with chronic conditions. And then to all adults not long thereafter.

During this rollout, whether you are a health care provider, essential worker or long-term care resident who already had COVID-19 — or just a normal adult who got the illness — it may be natural to wonder if it is necessary to get the vaccine. Or if you should save it for those who has not been exposed to the virus.

But at this point, it is unclear how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. As a result, even those who did have COVID-19 should plan to get vaccinated when it becomes available to your “priority group.”

While natural infection does provide protection for some period of time, it is somewhat unpredictable how robust that response is in individuals. Coronaviruses are notorious for prompting a flawed and incomplete immune response.

This is why people fall prey to the common cold again and again. The body uses a relatively simple strategy to fight off common cold coronaviruses. But this strategy does not appear to make a lasting impression on immune system memory.

Although we don’t currently know exactly how long one gains immunity from COVID-19 after getting vaccinated. But in those who have recovered from COVID-19, it is believed it will be more effective at preventing disease than one’s natural immunity.

For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine, review the following webpages:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Facts About COVID-19 Vaccines

U.S. Food and Drug Administration: COVID-19 Vaccine Information