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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke January 7, 2022

No, getting the COVID-19 vaccine after you’ve been infected with the virus isn’t more likely to harm

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  • Getting the COVID-19 vaccine after you’ve been infected with the virus isn’t more likely to harm you. In fact, one study found that people who have been infected and vaccinated are better protected than people who were never infected.  

Recent Facebook posts have posited that if you’ve been infected with COVID-19, getting a vaccine against the disease could harm you. 

"If you have natural immunity, taking the vaccine is more likely to harm you severely," one post said, using lipstick emojis in lieu of the word "vaccine" though comments made it clear that’s what was being discussed. "Natural immunity = 26x the protection."

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

We reached out to some medical experts and were told this isn’t accurate.

"The vaccines are safe for the overwhelming majority of people with little to no serious side effects," said Richard Watanabe, a professor of population and public health sciences at the University of Southern California. Trials have borne that out, he said, and many of the warnings that they’re harmful are rooted in misinformation. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Johns Hopkins Medicine recommend people who have already had COVID-19 get a vaccine. One study, according to the Mayo Clinic, showed that unvaccinated people who already had COVID are more than twice as likely as fully vaccinated people to get reinfected. 

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And another study, by Johns Hopkins, showed antibody levels against COVID-19 stay higher for longer in people who were infected by the virus and then were fully vaccinated with an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine compared to those who only got the vaccine. In other words: People who were infected and then got vaccinated were better protected than those who were never infected and vaccinated. 

We’ve already tackled questions about natural immunity versus vaccines. In September, for example, we rated a claim that an Israeli study found that fully vaccinated people have a greater risk of hospitalization and are 13 times more likely to catch COVID-19 than those who have recovered from an infection Half True.

The study was not peer reviewed and had limitations, while peer-reviewed studies have repeatedly found that vaccinated people are more likely to avoid hospitalization or death if they become infected. 

Plus, Watanabe said, developing "natural immunity" means you have to become infected with the virus in the first place, risking hospitalization, long-term COVID, or death. 

"Immunity is based on being exposed to the virus," he said. "So-called ‘natural immunity’ results in a wide range of levels of protection, because it’s primarily dependent on the type of virus you were exposed to and the level of exposure, which can widely vary and result in varying levels of immune response. This results in widely varying levels of protection. Vaccinations are given at doses that are designed to ensure a robust immune response to generate a strong level of protection." 

We rate this post False.


Our Sources

Facebook post, Jan. 4, 2021

Johns Hopkins Medicine, COVID Natural Immunity: What You Need to Know, visited Jan. 6, 2021

Mayo Clinic, Should I get a COVID-19 vaccine if I’ve already had COVID-19?, Nov. 5, 2021

PolitiFact, Fact-checking a claim raised at WVU about a coronavirus study in Israel, Sept. 1, 2021

PolitiFact, Immunity gained from COVID-19 infection ignores the risks of getting the disease, Sept. 1, 2021

PolitiFact, COVID immunity through infection or vaccination: Are they equal?, Oct. 11, 2021

MedRxiv, Comparing SARS-CoV-2 natural immunity to vaccine-induced immunity: reinfections versus breakthrough infections, Aug. 25, 2021

Nature, COVID super-immunity: one of the pandemic’s great puzzles, Oct. 14, 2021

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Myths and Facts about COVID-19 Vaccines, visited Jan. 4, 2021

Email interview with Dr. Richard M. Watanabe, professor, Population and Public Health Sciences and Physiology & Neuroscience, University of Southern California, Jan. 5, 2021

Email interview with Dr. Kelly Wroblewski, director of infectious disease programs, Association of Public Health Laboratories, Jan. 5, 2021


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No, getting the COVID-19 vaccine after you’ve been infected with the virus isn’t more likely to harm

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