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Contracting COVID-19 vs. Vaccination: Which is better for immunity?

Oct 15, 2021

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.

So, you got COVID-19. Luckily, you recovered and are back to living your normal life. COVID-free, immune to any future infection, no vaccination needed. Right?

Although there is some natural immunity and protection from a repeat infection of COVID-19 after recovering from the illness, it is not yet clear how long this natural immunity lasts.

covid vaccine

So, the question remains: Do you need to get vaccinated if you have already contracted and recovered from COVID-19? University of Utah Health experts, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), say yes.

The COVID-19 vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months and older, regardless of a previous COVID-19 infection. 

"While there is some evidence natural infection provides strong immunity, there is variability from person to person and less predictability than vaccine immunity," says Emily Sydnor Spivak, M.D., M.H.S., an associate professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at University of Utah Health. "Clinical antibody tests available also are not great correlates of immunity to COVID-19 and have wide variability from test to test."

A recent CDC study shows that those who have had COVID-19 and are not vaccinated, are more than twice as likely than those who are fully vaccinated to contract COVID-19 for a second time. And avoiding COVID-19 also means sidestepping any potential short or long-term side effects of the disease.

"Letting people get COVID rather than a vaccine to protect them from COVID means they're at risk of severe disease, long COVID, and even death," Spivak says. "I say this as we are seeing young, twenty-year-old patients being admitted with very severe disease. And even if only a few people have this unfortunate turn of events, it's not worth the risk. Please get your COVID vaccine."

Beyond the reinfection rates, the COVID-19 vaccination helps prevent death or other potential serious side effects of COVID-19. The vaccine can also prevent you from spreading the virus to those around you and contributes to herd immunity.

Unfortunately, misconceptions surrounding not only the COVID-19 vaccination, but the disease itself, are preventing people from choosing to get the vaccine.

And with the onslaught of at-your-fingertips information surrounding the topic, it's easy to become overwhelmed or confused by the contradictory messages.

Luckily, there are credible sources that do provide up-to-date, science-backed information. The CDC has a webpage of its own, with up-to-date information on the science of the disease, including any change in protocol or recommendations in treating and preventing COVID-19.

“If anyone has questions about the vaccine, I’m happy to provide non-judgmental support and evidence-based medical advice,” said Spivak.

To learn more, visit