By Paul M. Dake, M.D.
Q: I’m in my late 30’s and quite certain that I had COVID-19 this past spring, given the symptoms that I had at the time. However, I was never tested for the virus, at that time, or since. When I saw my Primary Care Physician (PCP) last week, she recommended that I get one of the COVID-19 vaccines. I am reluctant to get it, because I’ve read that the immunity you get from having the disease is better than what you can get from any of the vaccines. So why is my PCP still recommending I get a vaccine?
A: Your PCP deserves considerable credit for staying up to date on the latest recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) which, in the last several weeks, published the results of a carefully designed and conducted study of 7,300 patients, admitted to 187 different hospitals, in 9 different states in the U.S., with COVID-like illness, proven on testing to be COVID-19 (mainly the Delta variant), from January through September of 2021. Antibody testing showed which of these patients had had COVID-19 previously, but had not had any of the vaccines, and a review of state-maintained immunization records revealed which had already had either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccinations.
Analysis of the data showed that the unvaccinated patients were between 5 and 6 times more likely to have another COVID infection serious enough to cause hospitalization than the previously vaccinated patients.
The main lesson to take away from this study result is that being infected with one strain of COVID-19 does not mean you are protected from a newly evolved variant of the same virus, but that either of the two vaccines named above did offer much better protection against that new variant.
Your PCP is very correct in her recommendation, particularly if you wish to avoid the inconvenience and expense of being hospitalized with a disease that is highly vaccine-preventable.
To learn more about this and many other health topics, visit the American Academy of Family Physicians’ website familydoctor.org, where you can click on the Search box in the upper right corner of the website, and enter your topic of interest.
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