The short answer is YES…  but emerging research shows that (among people that have been infected and recovered) the the first dose gets you to a very high level of protection but that the booster shot is unlikely to provide you with any extra benefit – at least in the short-run.

Here’s the story:

Dr. Joe Gerald’s best estimate is that close to 35% of Arizonans have been infected with and recovered from the SARS CoV2 virus that causes COVID-19. Now that all adults qualify to try to get a vaccine, more people are wondering if they need to or should get a vaccine even though they had COVID-19 and recovered?

The short answer is yes. After looking at the current evidence it looks like people that have been infected and recovered benefit from higher immunity if they get a vaccine. But, research that came out today suggests that the booster shot is unlikely to provide any additional benefit (again this is just among people that have been infected and recovered).

Infection with the virus provides good immunity for most folks. Research shows that antibody and T-cell responses post infection provide good protection against reinfection. Research also shows that 91% of people who recover are unlikely to be infected again for six months (even if they just had a mild infection or even no symptoms).  But…  infected but asymptomatic people make fewer antibodies than people that had symptoms.

Before actual data existed, I had expected that those with a natural infection would have better protection than people who had been vaccinated but never caught COVID-19. I was wrong about that.

A Research Letter in The New England Journal of Medicine found that antibody levels are higher in fully vaccinated people (Moderna or Pfizer) than in those who had recovered from infection. That was surprising to me.

It’s clear that people that have been infected but recovered should get vaccinated. But do they need the follow up booster? Data published today in the journal Nature suggest that while the first dose of Pfizer or Moderna provides a clear benefit for previously infected folks the booster shot is unlikely to provide extra benefit – at least in the short-run.

The article in Nature is called Antibody responses to the BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine in individuals previously infected with SARS-CoV-2 found that:

“…  individuals previously infected with SARS-CoV-2 developed vaccine-induced antibody responses after a single dose of the Pfizer–BioNTech mRNA vaccine were similar to antibody responses seen after a two-dose vaccination course administered to infection-naive individuals.”

“… a second vaccine dose did not offer previously infected individuals a substantially greater benefit over a single dose in antibody neutralizing potential. Thus, our data suggest that a single dose of the Pfizer–BioNTech vaccine is sufficient for individuals with prior SARS-CoV-2 infection…”.

Bottom line: folks that have been previously diagnosed with COVID-19 should get vaccinated, but the research published today suggests that booster shot is unlikely to provide additional benefit.

Editorial Note: Future research might show that there is a benefit to people that had previously been infected – especially over the long run. Also, at some point those vaccination cards might be used for travel and other privileges so there may be an administrative benefit for getting the Moderna or Pfizer booster if you’ve previously been infected with SARS CoV2.