Trust Index: Will people with a previous COVID infection benefit from the vaccine?

HOUSTON – A small study from Cleveland Clinic says people with previous COVID infection won’t benefit from the vaccine.

Local researchers, Dr. PeiYong Shi from UTMB, Dr. Annamaria Macaluso Davidson from Memorial Hermann, Dr. Robert Atmar from Baylor College of Medicine, all disagree. They said the biggest reason someone should get a COVID-19 vaccine is that it protects from a variety of variants and if you’ve previously had an infection, you’ve only built antibodies to that one strain.

“(The vaccine has) a really nice efficacy against the UK and the South African variant which are kind of most common,” Dr. Macaluso Davidson said.

To understand why they’re not on the same page as Cleveland Clinic counterparts, you have to dive below the surface. For example, in the Cleveland study, they were looking at their employees who had a previous infection and were unvaccinated and concluded they were not at high risk for reinfection.

However, local experts say medical workers don’t represent the general public since they’re regularly wearing PPE.

“Our masks, our gloves, our gowns, we’ve also set up means to screen patients so our risk of exposure has decreased significantly,” Dr. Atmar said.

It might seem as if the study is telling people with a previous infection not to get a vaccine, but the brains of the study themselves say this is false. They encourage everyone to get vaccinated and suggest this simply offers guidance on who to prioritize.

“This information could help guide vaccination efforts should there be a shortage of vaccine supply and in countries where vaccine supply is limited,” according to a statement from Cleveland Clinic.

They also added this study was conducted in a population that was younger and healthier than the general population.

The one thing everyone agreed on: the virus is still new to scientific study and we do not know how long the immune system will protect itself against re-infection.