April 01, 2021

Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I've already been infected?

Q: Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine even if I’ve already had COVID-19? I thought that having the virus gave me immunity.

A: The protection a person gets from having an infection (natural immunity) varies depending on the disease and from person to person. It's true that having COVID-19 offers some immunity from reinfection with the virus. But because the COVID-19 virus is still new and thus not fully understood, it's not clear how long that protection lasts. Current evidence suggests that reinfection with the COVID-19 virus is uncommon in the first 90 days after an initial infection.

Because reinfection is possible and COVID-19 can cause severe medical complications and even death, it's recommended that people who have already had COVID-19 get a COVID-19 vaccine. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the vaccination should be offered to you regardless of whether you already had an infection, and you are not required to have an antibody test before being vaccinated.

However, if you are currently infected with the virus, you should wait to get vaccinated until after your illness has resolved and you have met the criteria to discontinue isolation. It would also be reasonable to wait until the end of the 90-day period after the onset of COVID-19 symptoms — the minimum current time frame of expected natural immunity — to be vaccinated. If you received treatment with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma because of your infection, the CDC recommends waiting at least 90 days after that treatment to be vaccinated to avoid any interference of the antibody treatment with the immune response provided by the vaccine.

With vaccine distribution, first...