by Jimmy Yates ‘21
The New York Times recently reported study results showing people who already contracted and survived Covid-19 may only need one dose of the vaccine, as they already have a higher-than-normal level of antibodies to the virus. The Pfizer vaccine was found to be 85-percent effective two to four weeks after just the first shot. When the first and second shots were given three weeks apart, they were 95-percent effective, just a 10-percent increase.
For those that have already contracted the virus, the moderate-to-severe symptoms often arise after the first dose of the vaccine. People who beat Covid-19 often face even worse symptoms after taking the vaccine than they did during the virus, and worse than those who have not already been infected with Covid-19.
Two other studies show corroborating results. The first revealed that people who have already had Covid-19 should not be prioritized to receive the vaccine, as they already have natural antibodies from their immune system. The other shows that natural immune system responses to Covid-19 result in an average of 83-percent protection from getting the virus again over the next five months.
If people who already contracted Covid-19 only need one dose of the vaccine, as the studies show, they would not necessarily have to suffer through the severe symptoms often worse than what they actually experienced while fighting the virus, and thousands of vaccine doses could first go to people who do not have any natural antibodies.
Despite the findings of these recent studies, the CDC has not changed its guidelines and recommendations for vaccinations. The CDC still recommends that even people who have had the virus should receive two doses of the vaccine, citing that their immunity may not last a long time, and their antibodies may not protect as effectively against future strains.
The main issue with giving people who already contracted Covid-19 only one dose of the vaccine is that it’s nearly impossible to measure the amount of antibodies in each patient, or even pinpoint everyone that had the virus, as one must have been tested in order to confirm whether or not they contracted the virus. The amount of antibodies generally depends on the symptoms experienced while fighting the virus, so some may have very high antibody levels, and others may have much lower levels.
It’s difficult to make changes to the vaccine distribution policies because of this problem and the small number of studies that show promising results, but as studies discover more about the virus and our immune system’s own ability to fight it and make antibodies, we may see changes to the required number of doses and/or lowering of the vaccine priority for people who have already had the virus.