Do you think you’ll drop a COVID-19 vaccine because you’ve already had the virus?
You may want to think again, say medical experts.
“There is a difference between vaccination immunity and natural immunity,” said Dr. Paul Entler, vice president of Sparrow Health System in Lansing, said. “The vaccine can make you more immune to COVID than when you had the infection.”
Dr. Darryl Elmouchi, a physician in Grand Rapids, agrees.
“We certainly do not know how immunity works for people who get COVID and how long it is,” said Elmouchi, president of Spectrum Health West Michigan, a division of Spectrum Health. ‘It is thought that most people are immune for at least 90 days, but we do not know.
“It is believed that based on the studies, the vaccine provides better and longer-lasting protection than an actual infection,” Elmouchi said. “That’s why the CDC and the FDA have recommended that you even be vaccinated if you have had COVID.”
A major concern is that if someone had a mild COVID-19 infection, their immune system may not have developed enough antibodies – and this may even be true for people with more serious infections. At least one study of people hospitalized with COVID-19 found that the virus “depleted” their immune response and undermined the ability to create an adequate immune memory.
There are also concerns that natural immunity may last only a few months, and some reports of coronavirus patients are re-infected.
With so many unknowns about natural immune response, a previous COVID-19 infection should not exclude the person from getting the vaccine, according to the Immunization Practices Advisory Committee, the independent committee that advises the federal Centers for Disease Control.
The ACIP says that data from clinical trials indicate that vaccination is ‘safe and probably effective’ in people who have previously been infected with COVID-19, whether they have symptoms or not.
The Department of Health and Human Services in Michigan takes a similar view.
“People who have had COVID-19 can still get a vaccine,” said MDHHS spokeswoman Lynn Sutfin. ‘The CDC recommends getting it after you recover. You should contact your healthcare provider if you have any questions. ”
While most coronavirus patients can get the vaccine as soon as they no longer have symptoms, they have to wait 90 days if they receive monoclonal antibody treatment, medical experts say.
Another caveat: with the vaccine shortage at the moment: some experts say people who have never been infected with the virus should be given preference over those who have had COVID-19 and have a natural immunity.
Focusing on people who do not have antibodies, especially in severely affected areas, is likely to maximize the value of the vaccine to slow the spread of the virus, according to a non-peer-reviewed model study by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder.
And the fact is that doctors and scientists do not yet know much about natural immunity compared to the protection that the vaccine offers.
‘Since this virus is new, we do not know how long the natural immunity can last. Some early evidence – based on some people – suggests that natural immunity will not last very long, ”says the CDC website. “As far as vaccination is concerned, we will not know how long immunity lasts until we have a vaccine and more information on how well it works.”
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