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I've Already Had COVID-19, Do I Need the Vaccine?

This information was accurate at the time of publication. Due to the changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, some information may have changed since the original publication date.

Those who've been infected by COVID-19 might question whether they need to get vaccinated. The answer is, “Yes.” Get vaccinated. While your body has built some immunity and now has antibodies, protection doesn’t last forever. 

Here’s why:


Immunity wanes over time

Studies have shown that natural immunity to COVID-19 infection wanes over time. While immunity from the COVID-19 vaccine wanes as well, an updated additional dose of the COVID-19 vaccine provide adds protection against severe disease from the virus.

Immunity is different for each person

Your body builds immunity, or protection, from bacteria, viruses, and parasites to help prevent you from getting sick. When you are exposed to these “germs,” your body builds antibodies that help detect that specific germ the next time it returns—and fight it off. How well you fight off COVID-19 the next time may depend on how much virus you were exposed to the first time. In addition, age, certain chronic conditions, and other factors can weaken immune responses. In short, it is difficult to predict how well that first exposure has equipped your body to fight off COVID-19 in the future.

Reinfection can be more common with newer variants

As SARS-CoV-2 continues to evolve, so does your chance of getting reinfected. Variants of COVID-19 mutate and change. Sometimes these changes allow the virus to evade existing immunity.

You have a higher chance of experiencing chronic health issues

It is hard to predict how a COVID-19 infection will impact you. Research shows that reinfection can increase your risk of developing long COVID-19 and health issues such as diabetes, kidney disease, organ failure, and mental health problems.

Staying up to date on vaccination lowers your chance of being reinfected

Lots of circumstances influence your chance of getting infected by the virus that causes COVID-19, like levels of transmission in the community and whether you are directly exposed to people who are infected. However, data shows that staying up to date on vaccination lowers the chance of getting reinfected.

Certain people are at higher risk

Older adults have the highest risk of getting very sick from COVID-19. People with certain medical conditions and pregnant people are also at higher risk of reinfection.

The CDC recommends getting a vaccine sooner rather than later if:

  • You have risk of severe health concerns
  • Your COVID-19 community level is high
  • The current COVID-19 variant is increasing illness