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VERIFY: Yes, you should still get a vaccine if you've already had COVID-19

Medical experts are still unsure how long natural immunity lasts for COVID-19 and reinfection is possible. So it's a good idea to get vaccinated.

As more COVID-19 vaccines are produced and more people are offered the option to get vaccinated, it’s becoming increasingly common for people who have already had COVID-19 and recovered to be able to get the vaccine.

That can create a confusing situation for some people. Should I get the vaccine? Do I still even need the vaccine if I had coronavirus? In both cases, experts say the answer is yes. 

THE QUESTION

Should I still get the COVID-19 vaccine if I’ve already had and recovered from the coronavirus?

THE ANSWER

Yes. Reinfection of COVID-19 is possible and experts are still unsure exactly how long immunity lasts.

WHY WE ARE VERIFYING

More than 27 million people in the United States have had COVID-19. Many of these people, such as viewer Amy H. who emailed the VERIFY team about vaccinations following a positive test, are wondering if they still need to get the vaccine.

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WHAT WE FOUND

The CDC says in the third section on their COVID-19 vaccine facts page that you should still get the vaccine even if you’ve already had COVID-19 and recovered.

The agency says that experts do not know how long someone is immune from getting sick again after recovering from the virus and that some early evidence may suggest it doesn’t last very long. They also don’t know how long immunity from vaccinations will last until they have more data.

Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of infectious diseases at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said another good reason for a once-infected person to get the vaccine is because some studies are suggesting your body may develop more antibodies, which help you fight infections, from the vaccine than from the illness itself. More research is being done to follow-up on these studies.

Mayo Clinic echoes the CDC and emphasizes that reinfection is possible. They noted that you could delay your vaccination until 90 days after your diagnosis if you want, because reinfection within 90 days is uncommon.

Dr. Schaffner said that right after you’ve recovered from the virus you may get more of the side effects associated with the vaccine because your body still has the antibodies for a strong immune response. That’s another reason why, he said, people should wait 90 days until after they’ve had COVID-19 to get their vaccination.

A pair of recent studies released in preprint suggest that those who have already been infected may need just one dose of the vaccine for immunity rather than two. However, medical experts are still researching this theory and officials have not yet altered their guidance to reflect those studies’ findings. You’re still urged to get two doses of the vaccine even if you’ve been infected before.

Dr. Schaffner added that it’s important for people to get the 95% protection that two doses of the current Moderna and Pfizer vaccines offer. “You'll only get that with two doses of the vaccine, as far as we know right now. So the recommendation is, even though you've had COVID, please be sure to get two doses of the vaccine.”

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