Stay unvaccinated after a bout with COVID-19 and you're five times more likely than someone who has had the shot to get COVID again, the new study found. That's because the immunity acquired through an infection is short-lived.
"It's very good for three months, and may well be good for a lot longer, but it's not permanent," said infectious disease expert Dr. Bruce Farber of Northwell Health in Manhasset, N.Y., who reviewed the findings.
It's unrealistic to think that having the virus would provide permanent immunity, he said.
"That's not what you see with influenza. That's not what you see with regular coronaviruses. That's not what we see with rhinoviruses. People get infected with them over and over again. And I think that will be the case here," Farber said.
Many patients think that because they have antibodies from having COVID-19, they don't need the vaccine, he said.
"That's happening increasingly often now," Farber said. "What I say to them is: You know, you're right, there is some immunity from having had COVID, but you can prolong that immunity and reinforce that immunity with a booster."
Farber predicts people will need a yearly COVID-19 shot. Right now, the infection rate is waning, but more virus variants are likely to arise, he noted.
"We can relax now, but we may need to re-evaluate that if the community rates rise," Farber added.
For the study, a team led by Ronen Arbel of Clalit Health Services in Tel Aviv collected data on more than 149,000 patients in Israel. All had recovered from COVID-19 and had not