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Is “natural immunity” better than a COVID-19 vaccine?

Health care workers answer questions about the COVID-19 vaccines.

Jessica Malaty Rivera, MS explains that even people who have had COVID-19 still need to get vaccinated to be protected from future infection.

I think there are some misconceptions about what the word “natural immunity” means. It’s a term we’ve used actually in infectious diseases and immunology for quite a long time. And, typically what happens is when you’ve been exposed to a virus, your body has some memory and tries to prevent you from getting sick from it again. Unfortunately though, with COVID-19, we’re not seeing that same kind of memory induced from a natural infection compared to what we’re seeing with vaccine induced immunity.

The vaccines are triggering a very robust immune response, which actually includes T cells and B cells. B cells are pretty remarkable because they have that memory and they’re able to create more antibodies over time and T-cells come in and attack and make sure that you don’t get sick. So, we know that comparatively speaking that previously infected folks are at five times greater risk of reinfection compared to people who have been vaccinated. So, you can dramatically reduce your risk of reinfection and infection in the first place if you seek vaccination.

This information is shared for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. The views expressed are those of the featured medical professional and reflect information available to that professional at time of filming. Always consult a health care provider for any personal health decisions. Click here for vaccine FAQs from the CDC.

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