CDC: Unvaccinated individuals who’ve had COVID are twice as likely to get reinfected

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Think you don’t need to get vaccinated because you’ve already had COVID? Think again. The CDC released a study reporting unvaccinated individuals who’ve had COVID are twice as likely to get reinfected.

From the beginning, health officials have said it’s important for people who have recovered from the virus to get the vaccine.

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Using a previous infection to not get vaccinated is an argument doctors like Steve Threlkeld with Baptist Healthcare have heard before.

“I’ve even heard some doctors say that, which is kind of distressing because we just know that is just not the case anymore,” Dr. Threlkeld said.

“I think the bigger problem is not so much about how much immunity lasts against an older version of COVID-19, but does it work well at all against other versions like Delta.”

The study from the CDC shows a lot of uncertainty when it comes to natural immunity following COVID.

It also says reinfection is twice as likely for people who don’t get the vaccine.

“The virus is just drifting away from us. So, we have to have new immunity, and it turns out the vaccines right now do a better job of updating our immunity to the newer variants,” Dr. Threlkeld said.

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The study was based on people who were infected with COVID in 2020 and were re-infected between May and June of 2021 - the same time the Delta variant intensified.

Right now, the Delta variant is accounting for almost all COVID cases in Shelby County.

“If we had 80 percent penetration of the population getting the vaccine, even the Delta virus wouldn’t be filling our hospitals right now, but it is because most of the patients in the hospital have not been vaccinated,” Dr. Jeff Mullins with Methodist Healthcare said.

Whether you’ve been infected or not, Dr. Mullins said the data is clear.

“If you’ve been vaccinated, your risk of being hospitalized is about 3 of 1,000, and your risk of dying is 1 out of 1,000, regardless of your belief of the safety of the vaccine,” he said.

Dr. Threlkeld said he’s expecting the COVID vaccine to get the final approval from the FDA as early as next month.

He’s hoping this will encourage more people to get the shot.