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Published on April 20, 2021

Woman showing bandage after receiving vaccine

I Already Had COVID – Do I Need the Vaccine?

If you are among the more than 15% of the U.S. population who has already had COVID-19, you might be wondering if you are immune. And if so, do you really need to get vaccinated?

Experts say “yes” – here’s why:

COVID-19 immunity only lasts so long.

When you recover from COVID, your body develops antibodies to the virus. It’s unknown exactly how long COVID antibodies stay in your body, but it’s estimated to be a matter of months, said David Basel, MD, Vice President of Avera Medical Group Quality. Also these antibodies might not be numerous enough to fight off new variants of COVID.

It’s possible to get COVID again.

While reports of reinfection are rare, it’s possible, especially with new variants that are going around. Another bout with COVID could put you out of work again and in quarantine. Also it’s possible that the second infection could be worse than the first. “There are a lot of unknowns with COVID – it’s only been around for a year, so we don’t know exactly what to expect. It’s best to be as protected as possible, and that’s through a vaccination,” Basel said.

The COVID vaccine protects you best.

It’s true that you develop COVID antibodies after you recover from the illness, but they can eventually go away.

“In comparison, the COVID vaccine actually trains your body to keep producing new antibodies against the virus if you are exposed again,” Basel said.

Also, fighting off some of the newer variants of COVID requires a higher number of antibodies. “Antibodies produced by natural immunity may not exist in as high a concentration as the immunity the vaccine produces. Vaccines are still showing good effectiveness against COVID variants – especially against serious illness and hospitalization,” Basel said.

Everyone who is eligible for the vaccine – which is generally everyone ages 5 and older unless your doctor advises against it – is advised to get it as soon as you get the chance. 

“Once you’ve had the vaccine you can do things we haven’t been advised to do for some time,” Basel said. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states you can gather indoors with others who have been vaccinated, without masks or social distancing. You can travel within the United States more freely, too.

“You can hug your grandparents again – if both you and they have been vaccinated. Things are starting to get back to normal, and will continue in that direction as more people get the shot,” Basel added. You can find a location to get the COVID vaccine now.

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