If I’ve had COVID-19, should I get the vaccine?

The answer is: Yes.

Last week, a patient who had recovered from severe COVID-19 pneumonia and other patients who had milder documented cases of COVID-19 asked me if they should be vaccinated after they had COVID-19.

They reasoned they’re already protected by circulating antibodies and wouldn’t need to be vaccinated, at least any time soon. These were sensible questions and I had a head scratching moment about them. The medical community remains in a discovery mode about many dimensions of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we learn something new nearly every day.

As a primary care doctor, I owe it to my patients to give them the latest and most accurate information. In such circumstances, it’s wonderful to practice medicine here at The University of Texas Medical Branch where we have some of the best-informed, world-class experts in this area.

I can and often do just shoot them a question like this, which I sent to Dr. Janak Patel, chief of infectious diseases, and Dr. Richard Rupp, one of the medical branch’s vaccine specialists.

Q: Dear vaccine expert colleagues, I’ve had a couple of patients ask me recently whether they should get the COVID-19 vaccine after they had the COVID-19 infection. They note they have already high antibody titers and wonder if that would interfere with the shot or even if they need the shot for several months. I checked with y’all on this before and recall the answer was anytime after COVID-19 infection they should get their vaccines, since it was unclear how long the natural immunity would last. Is there a guideline on this?

A: Yes, even after COVID-19 infection we recommend vaccination as soon as they recovered from COVID-19 and are out of the isolation period. Many patients with COVID-19 don’t mount adequate antibody response or none at all. The vaccine produces antibody response in everyone. In fact, patients have much higher antibody response to vaccine after recovery from natural COVID-19 infection. In some countries, for this reason, one dose of vaccine after COVID-19 infection is recommended to preserve vaccine supplies. However, in the United States, the two dose series is still recommended. — Dr. Janak Patel

A: They’re supposed to be vaccinated to boost their immunity. “High” antibody levels after infection aren’t nearly as high as those that follow vaccination. People who had COVID-19 and then are vaccinated get a really great booster effect and end up with antibody levels greater than those vaccinated alone. The hope is that their immunity will not fall as quickly it would following natural disease alone. There is epidemiological evidence that 20 percent of those that recover from COVID-19 are at risk for reinfection six months post recovery. The assumption is that number increases over time. — Dr. Richard Rupp

That is straight from the experts. Follow the science and go ahead and get the shot, once you have recovered from the COVID-19 infection.

“What do happy people have in common? They appreciate what they have.” — Chris Woodman

Dr. Victor S. Sierpina is the WD and Laura Nell Nicholson Family Professor of Integrative Medicine and Professor of Family Medicine at UTMB.

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(7) comments

Bailey Jones

Yes - just as the virus has a varied effect in infected people - from no symptoms to extreme symptoms - it leaves behind a varied amount of antibodies (protection). Get the vaccine - guarantee that your immunity is strong.

Carlos Ponce

Leave that between an individual and his or her health care provider, Bailey.

Bailey Jones

Carlos, I'm totally on board if you want to listen to your YouTube witch doctors and faith healers and not get vaccinated. Darwinism is my friend.

Carlos Ponce

Darwin? Do you mean Charles Darwin who wrote "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life"? German Heinrich Georg Bronn replaced "favoured" with "perfected" contributing to developments in early 20th Century Germany.[scared]

Mary Gillespie

Had I known that Fauci and the government would insist I continue wearing a mask afterward, I would not have risked taking the vaccine.

Ted Gillis

"Risked taking the vaccine" Mary? Next time you have a head ache don't take Tylenol. Next time you over exert yourself doing yard work, don't take Advil. There are risks to every action we take in our lives. We live in a community of common individuals, not selfish isolationists. Make wise decisions for all of us, not just yourself.

Thank you for taking the vaccination, and thank you for continuing to wear the mask.

I'll be happy to celebrate with you and others when we can go around mask free again! I'm just as tired of it as you are.

Carlos Ponce

Bible Scripture says "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." Ecclesiastes 1:9

THE GALVESTON DAILY NEWS

SUNDAY MORNING, AUGUST 22. 1982 Page One

"Whooping cough shots urged despite concern over vaccine's effects-

By PANDORA RYAN News Staff Writer

GALVESTON — Physicians are encouraging parents to have their children immunized against whooping cough, despite recent concern over the vaccine's side effects.

The DPT vaccine, given in five inoculations between three months of age and entrance into school, protects the child against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough). Mandatory vaccinations against these diseases have all but eliminated them in American school children.

However, recent studies have shown that small percentages of those inoculated suffer severe side effects, including permanent damage to the central nervous system.

A report by the American Academy of Pediatrics indicates that high fever and convulsions result in about one of every 7,000 children immunized. (Other sources say the risk is much higher; as.many as one in 700).

The academy also reported that more severe reactions, such as permanent brain and neurological damage, may occur about once in 62,000 children.

Despite these statistics — and the fears they have produced in some parents — the academy contends that benefits derived from the vaccination far outweigh the possible side effects of the drug itself.

Dr. Glenn Austin, director of the AAP, said: "while it is true that side effects in children, including serious reactions, do occur in rare cases after inoculation, the use of pertussis vaccine is responsible for he decline in the incidence of disease from 265,000 cases and 7,000deaths per year 40 years ago to 1,000-3,000 cases and five to 20 deaths per year today.''

Austin also noted a dramatic rise in pertussis infections in England after 1974, when that country made administration of the vaccine voluntary.

Austin encouraged parents to seek counseling from their physician about immunization, and to be aware of the possible side effects, but again emphasized the need to continue with a vaccination program in the U.S.

"Pertussis is still a killer in this country," he said, "and is itself a cause of brain damage and severe lung disease."

Dr. Gregg Wright, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical Branch,agreed.

Wright quoted a recent comprehensive study by the AAP which reviewed 16,000 children who had received the five inoculations.

"While a small number of children did have neurological complications, none of these were life-threatening or disabling."

He said directors of the study concluded that "it seems prudent to continue routine utilization of pertussis vaccine in infancy and childhood. The benefits of pertussis immunization far outweigh the risks.

"Wright also said parents should remain constantly informed about the medical care their children receive, but added: "It would be sad if children would not receive a protection that we can offer because of fears rather than facts."

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