One of the authors stresses this study was not meant to say people shouldn't get vaccinated if they've had the virus.
Researchers followed more than 52,000 Cleveland Clinic employees for five months. More than 1,300 of those employees already had a documented COVID infection and did not get vaccinated.
The study found none of them were re-infected during the five months they were monitored. They concluded those with laboratory-confirmed symptomatic COVID infection are unlikely to benefit from vaccination, and vaccines can be safely prioritized to those who have not been infected before.
This was done during the vaccine shortage and is very useful info for countries currently dealing with a shortage. But there are also parameters with this.
"What we don't know is what's the duration of that protection? And also remember our population of health care workers is younger in general, it's healthier. We're not saying don't get the vaccine," says Dr. Steve Gordon of Cleveland Clinic, one of the authors of the study.
It's important to remember that immune protection isn't always equal. Some people may have a stronger response than others and Dr. Gordon says there's no antibody test currently that can accurately gauge the level of protection.
This isn't the first study that looked at natural immunity. In April, a study out of Penn showed 91% of people who develop antibodies against the coronavirus are unlikely to be infected again for six months. However, there may be a variant that develops that can work around both the vaccines and natural immunity.
Dr. Gordon says those who've been infected can still get vaccinated if they so choose, but those who choose not to should be aware that eventually that protection will wane. Just like those who've been vaccinated.
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