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