Yes, you need to get the vaccine even if you’ve had COVID-19: A local doctor explains why

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Right now, everyone — from the president of the United States to local churches — is working to get more people vaccinated for an extra layer of protection against COVID-19.

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But there are still some who have had COVID-19 and question if the shot is still necessary.

Action News Jax’s Courtney Cole took this question to Dr. Charag Patel, the assistant chief medical officer at UF Health, who explained why it is, in fact, still necessary.

Patel said even if you’ve already had COVID-19, you still need to get the vaccine. It comes down to a concept called “waning immunity,” which means you’re left with fewer and fewer antibodies over time.

“For anyone that’s out there that saying that rather wait to catch COVID to attain immunity that way, I would caution you. That, given how deadly COVID is, not to play with fire,” Patel told Action News Jax.

Patel explained that your system has a memory. And its memory of that infection over time will start to fade.

“You can’t really recall quick enough what it takes to fight the infection and avoid from getting sick. So if you get sort of a booster shot, which is what the vaccine is going to do, you potentially will boost the memory of that to prevent you from getting reinfected,” he said.

According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the time this story aired, in Duval County, 52.8% of people have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 42.8% of people are fully vaccinated.

Patel said right now, it’s unclear what level of antibody you need to protect yourself against COIVD-19 infection. “But we do know the vaccine is giving you longer-lasting protection than actually getting natural immunity from being infected,” he said.

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He expanded on that by explaining how the COVID-19 vaccine’s targeted approach in your body plays an important role:

“It gives your body a protein, which instructs the cells in which it is injected to make a protein that is located on the surface of coronavirus. So instead of your immune system learning how to write a lot of different things, a lot of different characteristics of COVID, you’re learning how to fight one, which means you can focus more of your immune system’s attention on that. And that’s why I think you’re saying longer-lasting immunity with a vaccine versus natural immunity,” said Patel.

But he also said when you factor in that viruses are constantly mutating and variants are developing, the vaccine gives you a necessary immunity recharge.

For more information from the CDC, including the COVID data tracker, click here.