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COVID vaccine provides more protection than a previous infection

I keep reading anti-vaccine claims that a “natural” COVID-19 infection provides more protection than the vaccine. However, a newly published study from the CDC contradicts that belief. They found that those who were unvaccinated and had a recent infection were over five times more likely to have COVID-19 than those who were recently fully vaccinated with an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine and did not have a prior infection.

In other words, the COVID-19 vaccines provide more protection than does a previous COVID-19 infection.

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COVID-19 vaccine provides more protection – the paper

On 29 October 2021, a paper was published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report by Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) scientists. They examined more than 7,000 people across 9 states who were hospitalized with COVID-19.

The patients were in the VISION Network, which includes Columbia University Irving Medical Center (New York), HealthPartners (Minnesota and Wisconsin), Intermountain Healthcare (Utah), Kaiser Permanente Northern California (California), Kaiser Permanente Northwest (Oregon and Washington), Regenstrief Institute (Indiana), and University of Colorado (Colorado). The VISION Network, which includes 187 hospitals, is a database that allows researchers to examine various aspects of COVID-19 and vaccines.

The researchers examined hospitalizations in adults with COVID-19 illness and compared the odds of receiving a positive SARS-CoV-2 test result between unvaccinated patients with a previous SARS-CoV-2 infection occurring 90–179 days before COVID-19 illness hospitalization, and patients who were fully vaccinated with an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (either Moderna or Pfizer) 90–179 days before hospitalization with no previous documented SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Essentially, they found that unvaccinated, previously-infected adults were 5.49 times more likely to contract laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 compared to fully-vaccinated recipients of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine with no previously documented infection.

The researchers concluded that:

These findings suggest that among hospitalized adults with COVID-19–like illness whose previous infection or vaccination occurred 90–179 days earlier, vaccine-induced immunity was more protective than infection-induced immunity against laboratory-confirmed COVID-19. All eligible persons should be vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible, including unvaccinated persons previously infected with SARS-CoV-2.

I’m going to repeat myself, just in case all of the science was too wordy. Unvaccinated individuals who had a previous COVID-19 infection were 5.49 times more likely to get a new COVID-19 infection than those individuals who had received an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.

This data demonstrates that the COVID-19 vaccine can provide a higher, more robust, and more consistent level of immunity. And the vaccine can protect people from hospitalization for COVID-19 than infection alone for at least 6 months.

Although I doubt this article will stop the anti-vaccine commentary that we should get the disease itself rather than the vaccine, we really do have evidence that the immunity from vaccines is much more powerful than the so-called “natural” immunity.

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