CDC study: Immunity from vaccines is more consistent than from infection

For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has weighed in on whether a person is more protected from the virus if they have had it or if they get a vaccination to avoid it.

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According to the agency, while both infection-induced and vaccine-induced immunity last for at least six months, the bigger boost in antibodies and more lasting protection come from vaccines.

CDC scientists in the report released on Friday said the research confirms that vaccination provides a “higher, more robust, and more consistent level of immunity to protect people from COVID-19 than infection alone.”

“We now have additional evidence that reaffirms the importance of COVID-19 vaccines, even if you have had prior infection,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.

“This study adds more to the body of knowledge demonstrating the protection of vaccines against severe disease from COVID-19.”

The study, released Friday, did note that the evidence for infection-induced immunity is more limited than that for vaccine-induced immunity. Researchers also said that “a growing body of epidemiologic evidence indicate that vaccination after infection significantly enhances protection and further reduces risk of reinfection.”

“In studies directly comparing risk of reinfection among previously infected individuals who were never vaccinated versus individuals who were vaccinated after infection, most, but not all, studies show a benefit of vaccination,” the CDC report said.

Studies including more than 728,000 health system users in Israel and more than 11,000 healthcare workers in India reported that a history of prior infection with the COVID-19 virus “provided greater protection from subsequent infection than vaccination alone, but overall risk of infection was lowest among those that were vaccinated following infection during periods of Delta predominance.”

Just what level of protection a person acquires after either an infection or a vaccination varies, the agency reported. Currently, there is no FDA-authorized test for doctors’ offices or home use to measure the level of protection a person has.

The study looked at more than 7,000 people in nine states and 187 hospitals. It compared those who were unvaccinated and had contracted the COVID-19 virus in the last three to six months to those who were vaccinated over the same time period.

Another study released by the agency on Friday showed similar results to the report. According to that study, people registered a higher level of protection from vaccines than from a previous infection alone.