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Do you need a coronavirus vaccine if you’ve already had COVID-19?

Published Jan 14th, 2021 9:04AM EST
Coronavirus Vaccine
Image: Andrey Popov/Adobe

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  • The CDC is encouraging people who already came down with COVID to get vaccinated when they can. The agency notes that there’s no way to know how long the natural immunity that comes with a COVID-19 infection lasts.
  • The coronavirus vaccine rollout in the U.S. is moving along slowly. Officials were hoping to vaccinate 20 million Americans by the end of January, a milestone that seems unlikely given the current vaccination rate.
  • An estimated 10.2 million vaccine doses have been administered thus far.

When the U.S. began administering Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine last month, health officials like Dr. Fauci were optimistic that we might achieve herd immunity by June. The rollout of COVID vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, however, has been going much slower than anticipated and Fauci, as a result, now believes that we might not reach herd immunity until sometime later this fall.

Distribution issues aside, achieving herd immunity is dependant on a vast majority of Americans getting vaccinated.

“The real bottom line is when do you get the overwhelming majority of the population vaccinated so that you can get that umbrella of herd immunity?” Fauci asked during an interview last month.

While experts note that 80% of the population will need the vaccine in order to achieve herd immunity, it’s not entirely clear if that includes individuals below the age of 16. A similar issue that has been raised asks whether or not people who already came down with COVID and survived need to receive the vaccine. As it stands now, there have been nearly 23 million coronavirus cases in the U.S. If these people don’t need the vaccine, that would certainly help hasten efforts to achieve herd immunity.

But as it turns out, the CDC is encouraging people who already contracted the coronavirus to get vaccinated when they can, with the reason being that people who previously came down with COVID can get infected again. While this is seemingly rare, there have been a few documented cases of this happening.

The CDC writes:

Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the fact that re-infection with COVID-19 is possible, vaccine should be offered to you regardless of whether you already had COVID-19 infection.

At this time, experts do not know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. The immunity someone gains from having an infection, called natural immunity, varies from person to person. Some early evidence suggests natural immunity may not last very long.

As it stands now, approximately 10.2 million Americans have been vaccinated. Clearly, we’re a long way away from achieving herd immunity. That said, President-elect Joe Biden has said that he will do everything in his power to ensure that 100 million Americans are vaccinated within the first 100 days of his presidency.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.