Talk to Patients About: Natural Immunity vs. Vaccine Immunity for COVID-19
By Sean Price Texas Medicine May 2022

Catching COVID-19 can provide people with a degree of immunity from being reinfected with the disease in the future. This prompts some to opt against vaccination and instead risk getting sick to obtain this “natural immunity” on the assumption they will get a mild case and it will protect them from future illness. 

“Natural disease does provide some protection,” said David Lakey, MD, an infectious disease expert who is a member of the Texas Medical Association’s COVID-19 Task Force and vice chancellor for health affairs and chief medical officer at The University of Texas System. “The challenge is, it’s not a safe way to get that protection [from infection] because you don’t know if you’re going to have a mild or asymptomatic disease or have a life-threatening disease.” 

Among people who’ve already had COVID-19, those who do not get vaccinated after their recovery are more than two times as likely to get COVID again as those who get fully vaccinated, according to a study in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Aug. 13, 2021, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 

The level of immunity people get from a COVID-19 infection can vary considerably, depending on factors like their age or how sick they were, CDC says. 

“Vaccination is more predictable about the type of immune response that you’ll get,” Dr. Lakey said. 

People who’ve been sick with COVID-19 and afterwards receive a vaccine likely have the highest level of immune protection, he says. But it’s still best for people to be vaccinated before they’re ill to keep from spreading the virus to others. 

“[Getting sick with COVID] may just result in a runny nose. But it may be that you spread that to your loved ones and cause significant disease,” Dr. Lakey warned.  

This material is designed to help you talk to your patients and help them understand the benefits of vaccines. Find printable infographics and helpful videos for your patients on the Texas Medical Association’s  Talk to Your Patients About … webpage and through Vaccines Defend What Matters, TMA’s integrated, multimedia public health education and advocacy effort. 

Tex Med. 2022;118(5):48
May 2022 Texas Medicine Contents
Texas Medicine  Main Page    


Last Updated On

June 29, 2022

Originally Published On

April 29, 2022

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Sean Price


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Sean Price is a reporter for Texas Medicine and Texas Medicine Today. He grew up in Fort Worth and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. He's worked as an award-winning writer and editor for a variety of national magazine, book, and website publishers in New York and Washington. He's also helped produce Texas-based marketing campaigns designed to promote public health. Sean lives in Austin and enjoys hiking, photography, and spending time with his wife and two sons.

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