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Is the COVID-19 vaccine really better than natural immunity?

Can natural immunity keep you safe from COVID-19?

A vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Denver.
A vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at the Ruth Cohn School in Denver.
David Zalubowski, Associated Press

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a new report that immunity from the COVID-19 vaccine is more consistent than natural immunity.

  • But, natural immunity can last for at least six months after infection.

Natural immunity vs. COVID-19 vaccine

The new CDC report — based on research studies and some unpublished data — found that immunity from infection and the COVID-19 vaccine can last for at least six months.

  • But immunity from the COVID-19 vaccine is more consistent.
  • The COVID-19 vaccine can also offer more antibodies for those who were previously infected with the coronavirus.

Scientists said in the CDC report research shows vaccination leads to a “higher, more robust, and more consistent level of immunity to protect people from COVID-19 than infection alone.”

Should you get the COVID-19 vaccine if you had COVID?

Moreover, the CDC found that antibody levels vary from person to person from natural immunity. No COVID-19 case is the same. So it’s hard for officials to determine how well someone is protected by natural immunity.

  • “The CDC’s bottom line: Given what’s known and not known about immunity, people who have been infected with the virus should still get vaccinated,” according to The Washington Post.

Those with natural immunity might find it beneficial to get the vaccine, too. NPR reported that a number of studies found someone can gain “an extraordinarily powerful immune response” to the novel coronavirus if they’ve been infected naturally and received full vaccination.

  • “One could reasonably predict that these people will be quite well protected against most — and perhaps all of — the SARS-CoV-2 variants that we are likely to see in the foreseeable future,” Paul Bieniasz, a virologist at Rockefeller University who helped lead the research for several of these studies, told NPR.