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Experts say a booster shot is important even if you’re vaccinated and have had COVID-19.
Carsten Koall/Picture Alliance via Getty Images
  • Experts recommend that people who are vaccinated and have had COVID-19 should still get a booster shot.
  • They say that because a booster shot can provide a stronger immunity response than the natural immunity from a COVID-19 infection.
  • They encourage people who’ve had the disease to get their booster shot as soon as they have recovered.

Millions of vaccinated people in the United States had “breakthrough” cases of COVID-19 during the Omicron wave this winter.

If you were one of them, experts recommend that you should still get your COVID-19 booster shot if you haven’t already.

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that while nearly 40 percent of people who are vaccinated but not boosted want to get their booster shot as soon as possible, 16 percent were taking a “wait and see” attitude and 22 percent said they would get boosted only if it’s required.

The remaining 19 percent said they would “definitely not” get a booster shot.

At the same time, the administration of booster doses has fallen dramatically from its daily peak in early December, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In addition, an Associated Press/NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll reported that while 59 percent of Americans view the initial immunization shots as essential, only 47 percent felt that way about booster shots.

People who have been vaccinated and have had a breakthrough case of COVID-19 may be reluctant to get boosted because they believe they already have both vaccine and natural immunity.

However, the CDC recommends that people with breakthrough cases get boosted as soon as they are feeling well. If you have questions or concerns about the booster after recovering from COVID-19, reach out to your doctor or another healthcare professional.

“All of the experts agree that even if you had COVID-19 you should get a booster,” said Dr. Elizabeth Connick, the chief of the division of infectious diseases at the University of Arizona. “Not everyone who gets COVID-19 gets a good immune response, but almost everyone who gets the booster does.”

That increased immune response translates into more lasting immunity, Dr. Joseph Basile, the interim chair of the department of emergency medicine at Staten Island University Hospital in New York, told Healthline.

“The booster also will decrease your chances of having severe COVID illness leading to hospitalization or death,” Basile said.

Some debate remains about the best time to get a booster shot.

Connick told Healthline that the CDC recommends getting boosted 5 months after completing the initial 2-shot series of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or 2 months after receiving the 1-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine — and as soon as possible after that if you’ve had COVID-19 but are now feeling well.

“I would suggest that individuals wait until the acute symptoms of their breakthrough infection wear off before getting the booster, so as to minimize possible unpleasant side effects from the vaccine,” Dr. Richard Parker, the chief medical officer at managed care and medical data firm Arcadia, told Healthline.

“Some data out of Canada suggests that waiting a month or two might result in longer protection, but there’s still no solid evidence supporting such a delay in getting boosted,” said Connick.

“If you wait for the booster and you get COVID again, then it wasn’t worth the wait,” she said. “If you’re high-risk, you’ll want to get the booster ASAP.”

“Waiting until your natural immunity goes away is a problem because we don’t know how to track that,” Phil Felgner, PhD, the director of the Vaccine Research & Development Center at the University of California at Irvine, told Healthline.

The durability of the COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, on the other hand, has been “really remarkable,” he said.

In fact, new research indicates people who are vaccinated and boosted can probably wait awhile to get a fourth COVID-19 shot if and when these additional boosts are recommended and made available.

Felgner and his colleagues at Irvine have been working on a blood test intended to measure immune response among people who have been vaccinated or have had COVID-19.

Researchers plan to apply to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency approval of the Coronavirus Antigen Microarray (COVAM) test.

“It would be good to have a test that could show people whether their immune response was going down and whether they need to get boosted,” Felgner said.