Over 175.1 million doses of coronavirus vaccines have been administered in the United States as of April 9, but many people still have questions about when to get the vaccine – particularly if they have had Covid-19 over the past year.
Taking the vaccine also becomes more complicated if someone was recently diagnosed with Covid-19 or was diagnosed in between their two doses.
People need to take several factors into account when getting the vaccine, according to CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen.
It’s important to monitor your symptoms if you have been diagnosed with Covid-19, said Wen, an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. You should make sure you are healthy when receiving the coronavirus vaccine.
Also be sure to consult with your own medical provider if you tested positive for Covid-19 or are experiencing symptoms.
If I’ve had Covid-19 over the past year, should I get the vaccine?
If you are eligible to receive the vaccine, it’s important to take it, Wen said. The vaccine provides “better, longer and certainly more consistent protection than natural immunity,” she added.
“We also don’t know how long protection will last after having coronavirus, so you should still be vaccinated,” Wen said.
Recent research suggests that both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines provide a high level of immunity at six months. Because the vaccines are new, researchers don’t know how long the immunity lasts, but “one would expect for the immunity to last well beyond six months,” according to current projections, Wen said.
If I’ve recently been diagnosed with Covid-19, should I get the vaccine?
There is not a set number of days someone should wait until getting the vaccine, according to Wen. Rather, people should monitor their symptoms and make sure they aren’t feeling any severe Covid-19 symptoms, including a fever.
The current isolation period following a Covid-19 diagnosis is 10 days after the beginning of symptoms, so she recommends people follow that guidance.
“If it’s been 10 days and they have minimal or no symptoms, it would be fine to get the vaccine at that point,” Wen said.
Should I take both doses of the vaccine?
It’s crucial to receive both doses of the vaccine if you’re getting a vaccine that is administered in two parts, Wen said. The vaccines were studied under the assumption people would take two doses, she said, so the effectiveness applies as long as people take both doses.
The first dose gives some protection, but health experts don’t know how long that protection lasts, she added.
What if I’m diagnosed with Covid-19 between my first and second vaccine doses?
Wen said this situation has happened before. The first dose of the vaccine offers some protection, but not as much as two doses would, she said, so there is a possibility of contracting the virus between shots.
If you are diagnosed with Covid-19 in between doses, Wen recommends waiting to receive your second dose until your symptoms subside.
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“Your immune system is already revved up and responding to the coronavirus, so you do not need the vaccine to further stimulate your immune system at that point,” Wen said.
It’s important to give your body a chance to recover, so it’s best to wait until the symptoms have resolved. After that, it is OK to receive your second dose, Wen said.