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What happens if you get the vaccine and don't know you have COVID-19?

Cleveland physicians say it shouldn’t harm you if you get the vaccine when you have COVID-19, but it isn't necessarily a good thing.
Cleveland physicians say it shouldn’t harm you if you get the vaccine when you have COVID-19, but it isn't necessarily a good thing.
Updated: October 4, 2023 at 3:25 PM EDT
A new formula of COVID-19 boosters became available to the public in September, 2023 and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended the shots for everyone age 6 and up.

The EG.5 variant, nicknamed eris, remains the most prevalent in the United States, accounting for 29.4% of cases according to CDC data as of Oct. 4.

Early clinical trials of Moderna's new vaccine were determined to be effective against the eris variant and FL 1.5.1, nicknamed fornax, according to the biotech company. Pfizer also said in a media release that its boosters were found effective against omicron-related sublineages, including eris and BA.2.86, or pirola.

Fornax currently accounts for 13.7% of cases, making it the second-most prevalent variant in the U.S.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Novavax's updated COVID-19 vaccine, which is intended for age 12 and older. The FDA said in a news release that Novavax's new formula is also effective against omicron variants.

COVID-19 cases have dipped in Ohio, decreasing by over 20% in the last three weeks.

COVID-19 cases are again on the rise, fueled by the new BA.5 variant that typically produces mild symptoms or, in some cases like previous variants, none at all.

So what happens if you get the vaccine when you have COVID-19? Could that increase or decrease your chances of becoming seriously ill?

According to  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you shouldn't get the vaccine or a booster while you have symptoms. It is better to wait until your isolation period is over. Additionally, if you do get COVID-19 you should consider delaying your next shot by three months from when your symptoms started or when you tested positive.

But it won’t make you sicker or less sick if you have COVID-19 and get the vaccine, said Dr. Thad Stappenbeck, chair of the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute, but it could make the vaccine less effective if you get the shot when you have symptoms of any virus, he said.

That's why health care workers ask if you’re feeling sick before getting the COVID-19 vaccine, Dr. Stappenbeck said.

“They’ll wait until you’re feeling better for like a week or so, and then you can get vaccinated,” he said. “It’s all about the vaccine working. That’s really what this is all about.”

It is also best not to get other vaccines, like the flu shot, if you’re feeling sick, because it can impact the vaccine’s effectiveness, Stappenbeck said.

Dr. David Margolius, the city of Cleveland's director of public health, agreed that it shouldn’t make a difference if you get the vaccine when you have COVID.

“The reason we ask people to wait until they have recovered from COVID before getting the vaccine is to keep all the health care workers and others safe during the process,” Dr. Margolius said in an email.

Ideastream Public Media's health team is answering as many questions as possible about COVID-19, with help from local experts. You can  send us your questions with our online form, or call us at  216-916-6476. We'll  keep the answers coming on our website and on the air.

lisa.ryan@ideastream.org | 216-916-6158