Does getting infected with COVID-19 naturally provide as much protection as getting the vaccine?

Published: Oct. 12, 2021 at 7:02 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - A UW Health doctor explained why evidence suggests the vaccine provides better immunity for a longer amount of time.

Natural immunity wanes faster than health experts initially thought. Dr. Jeff Pothof said it wanes rapidly after 90 days. In the early stages of the pandemic, health experts thought that immunity would last closer to six months. That’s comparable to what vaccines provide.

Getting antibodies from COVID-19 naturally is far more reliable.

“One study suggests that up to 30% of people don’t actually create the antibodies that allow them to fight off an additional infection,” said Dr. Jeff Pothof, Cheif Qualifying Officer at UW Health.

Even a person does develop antibodies, they wane over time.

“And I think the difference there is even with vaccine-induced immunity if it starts to wane. What we don’t see with folks who even are at risk of reinfection, a breakthrough case as we’d call it. We don’t see hospitalizations, we don’t see people go to the ICU,” said Pothof.

Pothof cites an academic study that found you are twice as likely to have a breakthrough case and get reinfected with covid if you were reliant on natural immunity alone versus the vaccine.

“Even if someone has had covid already, It’s still recommended that they get fully vaccinated,” said Aaron Ruff, Public Information Officer for the Marathon County Health Department.

Pothof explained that people who have been naturally infected with covid and fully vaccinated are the most protected because they have high levels of antibodies.

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