Experts agree that vaccination is still vital in fighting the Delta variant.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which oversees the spread of the Delta variant virus in the United States, recommends that everyone eligible for the Vaccine is vaccinated. This includes those who COVID-19 has infected in the recent past.
While antibodies from a COVID-19 infection may offer some degree of protection against another future infection (known as “natural immunity”), those who have already had the virus may still be vulnerable–perhaps especially to the Delta variant, the current predominant strain, which is near twice as contagious as previous variants. A study published by the CDC on August 6 compared reinfection rates of people who had previously had COVID-19 and found that unvaccinated individuals were more than twice as likely to be reinfected than fully vaccinated individuals.
Experts don’t recommend that you rely on your natural immunity to prevent a COVID-19-related infection. Here are some tips to help you and your family protect yourselves from the Delta variant of COVID-19 and other strains.
Are our experts still recommending I get the Vaccine even if I have had COVID-19?
Antibodies are produced by all infections and protect against future illness. Health is told by Seema S.Lakdawala (associate professor of microbiology, molecular genetics, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine). According to Lakdawala’s theory, the immune system creates antibodies and T-cells to fight the virus. These cells then respond to it when they “see” the virus again.
This immune response could help prevent a second infection, Amesh A. A. Adalja MD, senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for Health Security tells Health. SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19. The problem is that this virus continues to evolve, meaning that your original protection may no longer be effective against new mutations. Lakdawala says, “When you are infected, you become immune to similar viruses.” “But viruses are designed to spread and evolve, so they change.
For example, Taylor Heald-Sargent, MD, an assistant professor of pediatrics specializing in infectious diseases at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, explains that if you had COVID-19 during the initial outbreak in spring 2020, it’s more likely than not that your antibodies don’t measure up against the Delta strain.
Dr. Heald Sargent says that while one person may be immune to the Delta variant of an infection from the past, the protection can vary greatly between people. She says that an immunocompromised individual may have a lower immune response than others. Health is told by Joshua LaBaer, MD, executive director at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University.
But no matter the severity, a past COVID-19 diagnosis isn’t a guarantee of protection: A study conducted by the University of Oxford found that people with weaker immune responses from a previous infection could be at a higher risk of contracting one of the new variants of COVID-19. Dr. LeBaer says, “We’re seeing a lot of cases of people who have had the infection before and got reinfected with both the Delta variant and other strains.”
What are the basics of vaccines and antibodies?
Officially, the CDC recommends that all eligible people be vaccinated. This includes those who have had COVID-19 previously. Dr. Adalja believes vaccination provides stronger and more reliable immunity than natural immunity. This makes it the best way to protect against severe illness caused by the Delta strain.
Although an infection can create antibodies against all proteins of a specific virus strain, vaccination focuses more on the most important protein. Lakdawala says that the spike protein, which binds with receptors in cells to enter a person’s body, is the most critical protein for many strains. She explains that antibodies against spike proteins of the virus neutralize it, which stops it from getting into your cells and making you sick.
Vaccines provide additional antibodies that can fight off new infections. Dr. LeBaer states that although people infected with the disease may still have antibodies, these antibodies are significantly increased upon vaccination.
People might be protected for longer periods because of the higher antibodies. Dr. Heald Sargent says that the Vaccine generates more antibodies than natural infections, so the protection lasts longer than natural infections.
While she says vaccines won’t protect you from sickness, Dr. Heald-Sargent adds that all three vaccines currently allowed by the FDA’s emergency use authorization offer some protection against severe sickness–including from the Delta variant.
Dr. Adalja explains that “when it comes to what really matters, preventing serious illness, hospitalization and death, all three vaccines have an extremely high level of reliability.” “It is extremely unlikely that anyone fully vaccinated will die from any new strains of COVID-19 or the Delta strain.”
Experts recommend that you continue to mask and physically distance yourself in public places, even if your COVID-19 vaccination is complete. This is especially important if you live near high-transmission areas. Dr. Heald Sargent says that it is still possible to get an infection even if you are vaccinated. Although it might not make you feel sick, you can still spread the infection to others.
This story was accurate at press time. Some data may have changed as COVID-19’s situation continues to change. Health tries to keep its stories up-to-date, but we encourage readers to use the WHO, CDC, and local public health departments as resources to stay updated on news and recommendations.