As COVID-19 cases continue to soar, millions of Americans are anxiously awaiting a COVID-19 vaccine that will allow us to return to some level of normalcy. With one vaccine receiving FDA approval for emergency use and others on the horizon, you likely have some questions — including whether or not you should get the vaccine if you've already had COVID-19.
According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, people who have recovered from the virus may have developed some form of immunity, but the duration and extent of that immunity are unknown. There have already been cases of people getting COVID-19 twice, indicating that contracting the virus doesn't automatically mean that you'll be spared from it long-term. So, when the vaccine becomes available to you, should you get it?
Is There Any Harm in Getting the Vaccine If You've Had COVID-19?
Reshma Ramachandran, MD, MPP, a physician fellow and researcher at the Yale National Clinician Scholars Program, told POPSUGAR that because people who previously had COVID-19 weren't included in the trials, there's not a definitive answer to this question. "That being said, what we do know is that there's a huge range in the immune response when someone gets sick with COVID-19," Dr. Ramachandran explained. "For some folks who had a mild case of COVID-19, their immune protection to prevent a reinfection might decrease sooner compared to others who had a more serious case." However, with a vaccine, everyone will get the same dose that we know elicits an immune response.
In short, Dr. Ramachandran said that once someone is vaccinated, we can be "better assured" that they won't contract a symptomatic or serious case of COVID-19. Carl J. Fichtenbaum, MD, professor and infectious disease specialist at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, said that based on current knowledge, there's no harm in receiving the vaccine. "It may stimulate a more vigorous immune response and sometimes that can make people feel bad for a couple of days," Dr. Fichtenbaum told POPSUGAR. "We don't know if natural immunity after infection protects people, [but] we do know that a couple of vaccines do protect against disease."
Dr. Ramachandran also emphasized that the vaccines have been tested in tens of thousands of patients and, as of yet, there have been no serious side effects. However, if someone has a significant history of serious allergic reactions, it's recommended that they'd don't receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Is There a Specific Vaccine That's Best For People Who Have Had COVID-19?
Based on what is known at this time, there isn't a specific vaccine that's best for this group. "Right now we have good data on three vaccines," Dr. Fichtenbaum said. "Each of them appears to stimulate good immune responses. We don't have any information to say that one vaccine might be better than another. Time will tell."
As always, consult with your physician if you have any questions or concerns about getting the vaccine if you've already had COVID. They will have the most up-to-date information when the vaccine becomes available.
POPSUGAR aims to give you the most accurate and up-to-date information about the coronavirus, but details and recommendations about this pandemic may have changed since publication. For the latest information on COVID-19, please check out resources from the WHO, CDC, and local public health departments.