The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are slowly continuing to become more widely available nationwide, and it looks like the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may be on the way as well. Most people are eager to get vaccinated, but many are asking: If I had and recovered from COVID-19, should I still get the vaccine?
The answer is yes, but there are a few caveats, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Both COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. right should be offered to you whether you’ve had the virus or not, and you won’t need to take an antibody test before getting the vaccine.
That’s because while people who’ve recovered from COVID-19 do appear to have some immunity to the virus, we still don’t know how powerful that immunity is — or how long it lasts, says Saskia V. Popescu, PhD, an infectious disease epidemiologist and assistant professor at George Mason University.
“We know the vaccines are 95% effective in preventing you from getting COVID-19 and we want everyone to get that benefit,” adds Nate Favini, MD MS, Medical Lead at Forward. After all, the vaccine doesn’t just help protect you — it also helps stop the spread of COVID-19 in your community. “It’s important to get the vaccine for several reasons — to help protect you and those around you, to help reduce the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community and thus the burden on healthcare and public health,” Dr. Popescu explains.
Now, about the caveats. If you currently have COVID-19, the CDC emphasizes that you should wait to receive your vaccine until you’ve quarantined, aren’t feeling sick any more, and have met the CDC guidelines for coming out of isolation.
And once you recover from COVID-19, you may want to wait 90 days before getting the shot, the agency adds, stating: “Current evidence suggests that reinfection with the virus that causes COVID-19 is uncommon in the 90 days after initial infection. Therefore, people with a recent infection may delay vaccination until the end of that 90-day period if desired.”
Ultimately, whether you decide to wait is up to you — but if you decide to hold off, you should definitely get the vaccine once your 90-day window is up, notes Paul Pottinger, MD, a professor specializing in infectious disease at the University of Washington School of Medicine. Although, until this point, the vaccine rollout has been slow going; you may not be eligible to receive the shot within that 90-day time frame anyway.
“In general, we’re not encouraging anyone who’s eligible to delay vaccination,” Dr. Favini says. “Certainly people who may be at higher risk because of their age or other conditions should get the vaccine regardless of how recently they may have been infected.” Dr. Popescue agrees, saying “The goal is to get everyone vaccinated by their priority group.”
“The CDC’s clinical considerations say, yes, it’s fine to get vaccinated, and yes, it’s fine to step back and let others go first and it’s because they almost certainly have some degree of antibody or immunity from the infection itself,” says Colonel John D. Grabenstein, RPh, PhD, the general manager of Vaccine Dynamics and editor for the Immunization Action Coalition. “We just don’t know how durable that is. Do they have a ‘mild or serious’ case.”
“Everyone should be immunized and that’s because we believe it’ll give stronger, better, and longer immunity,” Dr. Pottinger says. “We’re trying to get to those folks at the highest risk, if someone’s recently had it they probably have a month or two before they need to get it, but those who’ve had it and know how bad it can be. They should know that the only thing worse than COVID is more COVID.”