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How Long Should You Wait To Get the Vaccine After Having COVID-19?

If you recently had COVID-19, you need to wait 14 days after symptoms to get the COVID-19 vaccine. If you received a blood plasma treatment, experts say to wait 90 days so that the antibodies do not cancel each other out. [BaLL LunLa / Shutterstock]

What are your questions about the coronavirus vaccine?

ideastream's health team is answering as many questions as possible, with help from local experts in a range of fields. You can  send us your questions with our online form, through our social media  group, or call us at  216-916-6476. We'll  keep the answers coming on our website and on the air.

Martin asked, “If you were positive for COVID-19 and now you're sure you don't have it… how long do you need to wait to take the vaccine?”

People only need to wait two weeks after their symptoms to get the shot, said Dr. Keith Armitage, infectious disease specialist at University Hospitals.

When vaccines were in short supply, health experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended people with antibodies from COVID-19 wait for those with no previous infection to get the shots first. But that guidance recently changed, Armitage said.

“Vaccine is so available now, they don’t need to triage the supply to have people who have some immunity from natural infection wait,” Armitage said.

Plus, officials are concerned about the variant strains circulating across the country, which may evade antibodies from natural infection, he added.

“There may be a situation where vaccinated people have real, substantial protection, but people who’ve had COVID may not be well protected against the variant,” Armitage said. “So the recommendation now is, after 14 days, get a vaccine when you can.” 

Waiting two weeks after symptoms will ensure people do not infect those at the vaccination site, he added.

However, COVID-19 patients who received blood plasma or monoclonal antibody treatments during their illness should wait at least 90 days before getting the shot because the vaccine antibodies may conflict with the antibodies from the treatment, Armitage said.

“The antibodies would neutralize the spike protein, so your own body would not develop immunity against it,” he said. “Of course, you’ll be protected during those 90 days because you have antibodies from the monoclonal [treatment] or the plasma.”

Even if you have antibodies from a natural COVID-19 infection, you should still get the vaccine, Armitage said, because the vaccines provide stronger and longer immune protection than natural antibodies.

Listeners have also asked what they should do if they contract COVID-19 in between doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

If someone tests positive for COVID-19 before they are scheduled to receive the second dose, they should cancel their second appointment and reschedule it for 14 days after they recover from the illness, Armitage said.

There is no reported harm in delaying the second dose, he added.

If someone was exposed to COVID-19 but is not feeling any symptoms, they should keep their appointment and get the second shot as scheduled, Armitage said.

“We know that people have pretty good protection at 13 days after the first shot, so I would encourage people to go ahead and get it unless they have symptoms, in which case they should be tested,” he said.

Anna Huntsman covers Akron, Canton and surrounding communities for Ideastream Public Media.