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Do you need a vaccine if you've already had COVID-19? Public health experts weigh in

( ABC )


This week, Florida passed the one million mark in total COVID-19 cases. With the talk of a possible vaccine on the way, some wonder if people who’ve recovered from COVID-19 should still get the vaccine.


Months after his COVID-19 diagnosis, Robert Marrero’s road to recovery isn’t over. ABC Action News shared his story when he was released from the hospital in May.


“Much better in the sense where I don’t have to struggle talking, but I’m still having difficulty with the brain fog. I’m still having problems with my walking, and the pain from my waist down to my toes,” said Marrero. “It’s very, very slow progress. It’s almost, I guess, [been] nine months already.”


USF Health professor Dr. Marissa Levine explained if you’ve already had COVID-19, the general recommendation they expect will be that you should get a COVID-19 vaccine when it’s approved and available.


“Remember that what we’re looking at is an experimental authorization, that there’s a lot more to learn about this vaccine, so we don’t really know a lot about immunity yet, even for people who’ve had COVID, how long does that immunity last, let alone the immunity from the vaccine,” said Dr. Levine.


Levine points to precedent, reminding people that vaccines are recommended for those who’ve had certain diseases before, like shingles. While it's believed to be rare, Levine says there is a potential risk of COVID-19 reinfection.


“We know that you have immunity for some period of time,” said Levine. “It could be months, it could be longer, and like many other diseases, immunity duration really varies a lot by individuals.”


Earlier this week, a CDC advisory committee voted to recommend both healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents be the first to get a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available. Levine says it’s important to keep an eye out for official recommendations for COVID-19 survivors, too.


For long-haulers, the people who have lingering COVID symptoms, Dr. Levine suggests people check in with their doctor first. But Marrero says if his doctor gives him the green light, he’ll sign right up.


“Just try to be safe. Everything is all fine and dandy until you get it,” said Marrero.

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