At Clearwater Valley Health, we have set up a walk-in clinic to help patients get tested and treated for COVID-19. The walk-in clinic is located at 301 Cedar and staffed during the weekdays and Saturdays. The majority of patients being seen have mild disease and will recover at home. Many have asked if they need to consider vaccination once they have recovered from acute illness. Natural immunity -- which occurs once an individual has recovered from an acute infection, does provide protection from reinfection. The question is how long does this natural immunity last and would there be any additional protection from reinfection by getting immunized as well.
There have been few reasons to study this question prior to the pandemic. As new vaccine development began to catch up and become widely available, researchers began to ask themselves if we should be considering vaccinations in individuals who have previously been infected and recovered.
Researchers are studying the effects that vaccination has on circulating antibodies in the bloodstream. Antibodies are a type of protein found in blood that have the ability to bind to and neutralize a virus. Having more of these antibodies can make the difference between severe illness, mild illness, or no illness at all following exposure. Vaccines are a way to hand your immune system a blueprint to start producing these antibodies.
Researchers have found that the amount of circulating antibodies in patients who both recover from illness and who subsequently were vaccinated were higher than those who did not subsequently get the vaccine. Furthermore, these antibodies were more effective at neutralizing some of the new virus mutations -- like the delta variant.
In another study that followed patients in Kentucky between May and June 2021, researchers found that those with natural immunity were almost two and a half times more likely to be re-infected than those who had both natural immunity and were vaccinated.
Because these vaccinations are safe, effective, and reduce risk for reinfection, the CDC has recommended that individuals with prior infection still get the vaccine as soon as they are over their acute illness. If you were sick and treated with monoclonal antibodies, the CDC recommends waiting 90 days before vaccination.
If you do decide to get vaccinated for the first time following recovery, you may be more likely to experience some of the temporary side effects from the shot (fevers, chills, body aches, fatigue). These temporary side effects should last only 1 to 2 days.
Vaccines remain the most powerful tool we have to get through this pandemic. It is easy to get vaccinated in our community. Several days a week we have a vaccine clinic open to those who are interested. You can call ahead of time and ask when to show up and what vaccines are available.
Please continue to ask these important questions. We are here to answer them and provide you with the best guidance possible. Be safe and take care of yourself. And, if you can, take care of someone else too.