A tweet falsely states that recovering from a COVID-19 infection offers better protection than a vaccination.

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According to Johns Hopkins, studies show that “natural immunity to the coronavirus weakens (wanes) over time, and does so faster than immunity provided by COVID-19 vaccination.”

Natural immunity differs from vaccine-induced immunity, which is described as ‘what we get by being fully vaccinated with an approved or authorized COVID-19 vaccine.” According to the CDC, while both individuals who have been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and those who have been vaccinated, have “at least 6 months” of low risk of infection, it becomes unclear after that what level of protection unvaccinated individuals have after that timeframe. 


Another CDC report shows that previously infected Americans were 5x more likely to later have a positive COVID-19 test than those who were vaccinated.

Dr. David Vlahov, PhD, RN, FAAN, professor of nursing and epidemiology-microbial diseases at Yale University, told the AmNews in an interview that “[w]hile COVID-19 infection results in developing protection from subsequent infections, the antibody response wanes after several months allowing for reinfection and especially with circulation of new strains, persons may experience new or breakthrough infections.” 

The CDC recommendation for people to get vaccinated even if they have had a previous COVID-19 infection is supported by a group of researchers in the article “Reduced Risk of Reinfection with SARS-CoV-2 After COVID-19 Vaccination – Kentucky, May-June 2021.” 

They looked at COVID-19 reinfection in Kentucky from May-June 2021 and found that “Kentucky residents who were not vaccinated had 2.34 times the odds of reinfection compared with those who were fully vaccinated.” According to the study team, “[t]hese findings suggest that among persons with previous [COVID-19] infection, full vaccination provides additional protection against reinfection. To reduce their risk of infection, all eligible persons should be offered vaccination, even if they have been previously infected.”


A question those who are vaccine hesitant sometimes have is whether individuals should wait to get the COVID vaccine to see if natural immunity will eventually be shown to be more robust than getting vaccinated. This is not supported by current research. Among the reasons cited by both Johns Hopkins and the CDC: COVID-19 is a dangerous disease that can lead to long term and dangerous outcomes, hospitalization and death. Additionally, while an individual may have a mild case of COVID, they can spread the disease to someone else who may have a more severe reaction to the virus and disease.

Credit: Source: Centers for Disease Control

For the reasons above, the CDC recommends and Johns Hopkins Medicine agrees that all eligible people get vaccinated with any of the three FDA-approved or authorized COVID-19 vaccines, including those who have already had COVID-19. 

The notion that individuals who are infected with COVID-19 will be as protected from the disease as those who are vaccinated, is a false theory that can lead to individuals who could be protected from the disease contracting it. This is particularly true of Black Americans. According to the authors of the article “Strategies That Promote Equity in COVID-19 Vaccine Uptake for Black Communities: a Review,” co-authored by Dr. David Vlahov, “Black communities have had a high burden of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and death, yet rates of COVID-19 vaccine uptake among Blacks lag behind other demographic groups. This has been due in part to vaccine hesitancy and multi-level issues around access to COVID-19 vaccines.”

The authors go on to state that “misinformation plays a significant role in perpetuating vaccine hesitancy within Black communities, and it must be addressed to increase widespread vaccine uptake.”  

Regarding whether people have as strong of an immunity to COVID-19 after they have had the disease compared to those who have been vaccinated, Dr. Vlahov of Yale stated that “the body develops antibodies as a response to infection and this protection lasts for variable amounts of time. While some infections like measles last for years or even a lifetime, others like COVID-19 start to wane after a matter of months. The difference depends on how an infection triggers the immune system. For this reason, vaccines including boosters have been prescribed to beef up more sustained antibody protection against serious outcomes of infection.”

Further, according to Dr. Vlahov “what we know is that vaccines originally developed for one strain have tended to provide a level of protection when new variants have been encountered. The amount of protection appears to be somewhat less than the original strain, but evidence suggests that there remains good protection. Those with a full series of [the vaccine have] been shown to provide better protection than the unvaccinated.”

The best data we have indicates that while contracting COVID-19 does offer some protection from reinfection, it is not as strong as the protection you receive from being vaccinated and boosted. And getting COVID-19 in and of itself contains levels of risk of death and hospitalization that being vaccinated does not.

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3 Comments

  1. Antibodies derived from natural infection with COVID-19 are more abundant and more potent – at least 10 times more potent – than immunity generated by vaccination alone, according to a study from Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in Portland, US, published on January 25.

    Source: https://www.medscape.co.uk/viewarticle/covid-19-why-are-we-ignoring-infection-acquired-immunity-2022a1000ifd?uac=127834AR&impID=4086722&sso=true&faf=1&src=mkm_ret_220315_mscpmrk_perspectiveuk_int

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