Do you still need a vaccine if you've already had COVID?

Catriona Harvey-Jenner
·3-min read
Photo credit: retales botijero - Getty Images
Photo credit: retales botijero - Getty Images

From Cosmopolitan

Somewhat promisingly, the UK COVID-19 vaccination roll-out seems to be going well. More than 15 million people have received their first vaccination, and we're currently on track for all adults to have received their first dose by early summer (you can find out roughly when you can expect an invitation for a vaccine here).

The whole point of getting the vaccine is to give you immunity against coronavirus, but if you've already had COVID-19, it figures that you should have that immunity already. So do you still need the vaccine, even after having had coronavirus? Well, yes is the long and short of it. But the number of doses you need might be different.

Experts recently determined that most people who have COVID go on to develop antibodies which make them immune to the virus for around six months. Six months of immunity is great and everything, but it's not particularly long-term. When that time is up, it means individuals will be vulnerable to getting sick from COVID again, which will only perpetuate the cycle of the pandemic.

For that reason, even survivors of coronavirus need a vaccine if they want a chance of longer-term immunity. However, a study recently determined that recovered COVID patients may only need one dose of the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines, as opposed to two.

Photo credit: freelancer - Getty Images
Photo credit: freelancer - Getty Images

In the small study, researchers at the School of Medicine at Mount Sinai New York, assessed 109 people; 68 who had never previously had COVID-19, and 41 who had previously tested positive for the virus look. Experts looked at the efficacy of vaccines among the two groups and found that, after just one dose, people who had previously suffered COVID developed an immune response (antibodies) much more quickly. The concentration of antibodies was also found to be between 10 and 20 times higher than those without prior infection.

The study is yet to be peer reviewed, but its authors suggested that their findings could be valuable in decision-making surrounding vaccines going forward. "Changing the policy to give these individuals only one dose of vaccine would not negatively impact on their antibody [concentration], spare them from unnecessary pain and free up many urgently needed vaccine doses," said the researchers.

Photo credit: Yulia Reznikov - Getty Images
Photo credit: Yulia Reznikov - Getty Images

The BBC reports that France's health authority has actually already recommended that anyone previously infected with COVID-19 should only receive one vaccine jab. They are the first country to issue such advice, and suggest that previous coronavirus patients should be vaccinated between three and six months after contracting the illness.

The Haute Autorité de Santé (HAS) said "the single vaccine dose will thus play the role of a booster" for anyone with a previous infection.

As it stands in the UK, everyone eligible for the vaccination is being offered two doses, however it remains to be seen whether our approach will change as new information emerges.

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The information in this story is accurate as of the publication date. While we are attempting to keep our content as up-to-date as possible, the situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic continues to develop rapidly, so it's possible that some information and recommendations may have changed since publishing. For any concerns and latest advice, visit the World Health Organisation. If you're in the UK, the National Health Service can also provide useful information and support, while US users can contact the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

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