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VERIFY: Should you get a COVID-19 vaccine if you've already been infected with the virus?

A viewer wrote into the 9NEWS verify team asking if she should still get the COVID-19 vaccine if she has already been infected.

DENVER — As a COVID-19 vaccine gets closer to emergency use authorization in the United States, some people are raising questions.

A viewer wrote into our verify team wondering whether or not she and her husband should get the vaccine (once it becomes available) if they were already infected with COVID-19.

While your body does form an antibody response after being infected, there are still reports of cases of reinfection.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) website says, "In general, reinfection means a person was infected (got sick) once, recovered and then later became infected again. Based on what we know from similar viruses, some reinfections are expected.”

RELATED: Can someone get the coronavirus twice?

In a news conference on Dec. 3, Dr. Rachel Herlihy, an epidemiologist with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), confirmed hundreds of cases of reinfection in Colorado.

RELATED: 300 Coloradans have tested positive twice for COVID-19

“We have observed I think around 300 of those instances here in the state of individuals who had a previous positive test and then tested positive again," Dr. Herlihy said. “I think there’s unfortunately lots of things we still don’t know about reinfection with this virus.”

The 9NEWS Verify team turned to the experts to see if someone should get a COVID-19 vaccine if they have already been infected with the virus.


If you have already been infected with COVID-19, should you still get a vaccine?


Yes, it would still be recommended to get a vaccine, even if you have already been infected with COVID-19.  

9Health Medical Expert, Dr. Payal Kohli, explained that the antibodies that your body forms after being infected are not guaranteed to last a long time. This means that as soon as the antibodies wane, you can be reinfected with the virus.


The CDC's website states that cases of reinfection with COVID-19 have been reported, but remain rare.

Kohli explained that preliminary studies show that out of 100 people infected with COVID-19, 70 of them will probably have a strong antibody response, 20 of them will have a weak antibody response, and about five or six of them will have no appreciable antibody response.

However, even for those that have the strongest antibody response, the antibodies are not guaranteed to last. Kohli said that some studies have suggested that antibodies can start to wane as early as 36 days after infection.

“It would still be recommended to get the vaccination, even if you've had natural infection and recovered because, as we're seeing, those antibodies can wane,” Kohli said. “Now, the vaccination may also have antibodies that wane. So it's entirely possible that the vaccine is something that we're going to get year after year, just like we do with the flu shot, for example.”

The viewer that wrote in also wanted to know how accurate antibody tests are and if she could trust the results.

Kohli said that there's wide variability in the performance of antibody tests.

“For the most part they're performing reasonably well, but there are the concerns," Kohli said. “If you get the antibody test too soon after infection, meaning less than two weeks, your body really hasn't finished making those antibodies. So, you could get a false negative.”

On the flip side, she said that if an antibody test is not performing well, then it's possible that it could give you a false positive. In this case, it’s actually detecting antibodies against a cold coronavirus that you've had before, and not necessarily against SARS-CoV-2, which is causing the current COVID-19 disease.

So, we can verify that yes, whether or not you have been infected with COVID-19, it is advised that you should get the vaccination to keep yourself safe.

WATCH: Next Question: Is it safe for people who recovered from COVID to gather?


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