If you’ve already had COVID-19 before, do you need to get vaccinated? Here’s what to know

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COVID-19 cases are rising nationwide, and health officials are urging people to get the latest vaccine as more people are expected to get sick this fall and winter.

The newest vaccine, recommended for everyone 6 months and older, is considered the best protection against the most recent circulating variants, according to The U.S. Centers for Disease and Prevention.

Since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, millions have either already been infected or received vaccine doses. Some may not think they need the extra protection against the virus — but doctors say that’s not the case.

“The majority of the U.S. population has some level of immunity due to infection, vaccination, or both,” Dr. Megan Wallace with the CDC said. “However, vaccine and infection-induced immunity wanes and new variants have emerged.”

Is a COVID infection better than vaccine protection?

While vaccines are not 100 percent effective in preventing infection, the CDC says getting vaccinated provides a more predictable immune response against the virus that causes COVID-19.

“Getting sick with COVID-19 can offer some protection from future illness, sometimes called ‘natural immunity,’ but the level of protection people get from having COVID-19 may vary depending on how mild or severe their illness was, the time since their infection, and their age, the CDC website states.

According to the North Carolina Health Department, experts also don’t know how long protection lasts after a COVID infection.

A CDC study published in 2021 showed that those who were not vaccinated after COVID-19 were more likely to be reinfected than those vaccinated.

“The virus that causes COVID-19 is always changing, and protection from COVID-19 vaccines declines over time,” the CDC says. “Receiving an updated COVID-19 vaccine can restore protection and provide enhanced protection against the variants currently responsible for most infections and hospitalizations in the United States.”

When should I get the vaccine if I currently have COVID-19?

If you are sick with COVID-19, you should wait for the vaccine after your isolation period. The CDC says you may wait three months after your symptoms started or tested positive to get the new shot.

How soon will I be protected after getting the vaccine?

According to NCDHHS, everyone is considered up to date right after you get the newest COVID-19 vaccine, and its effectiveness will increase over two weeks.

You can find more information about the updated vaccine and where to find it online at