Atlanta, GA—
While a prior case of COVID-19 confers some protection from having a serious enough reinfection to lead to hospitalization, vaccination is much more effective, according to a new study.

In fact, a nationwide study published by the CDC demonstrates that mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are five times more effective than a previous case.

As reported in the CDC’s Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report, researchers from the VISION Network analyzed data from more than 201,000 hospitalizations in nine different states. In the roughly 7,000 of patients fitting the criteria for this study, researchers looked at the number of unvaccinated people who had a positive COVID-19 test more than 3 months before being hospitalized for the virus. The study team also considered how many recipients of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine were not diagnosed with COVID prior to being admitted to the hospital.

“This data provides powerful evidence that vaccinations offer superior protection against COVID-19 than relying on natural immunity alone,” explained Shaun Grannis, MD, MS, vice president for data and analytics at Regenstrief Institute and professor of family medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine.

“Many have been asking if they should get vaccinated if they’ve already been infected–this research shows the answer is yes,” Dr. Grannis said. Regenstrief contributes data and expertise to the VISION Network.

For adults older than age 65 years, the study team determined an even larger gap: Overall mRNA vaccines were nearly 20 times more effective at preventing hospitalizations than prior infection alone.

The study pointed out that its findings are in line with laboratory evidence that mRNA vaccines spark high levels of antibodies but levels of antibody vary greatly in COVID-19 survivors, especially if they had mild cases or were asymptomatic.

“Among COVID-19–like illness hospitalizations among adults aged ≥18 years whose previous infection or vaccination occurred 90–179 days earlier, the adjusted odds of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 among unvaccinated adults with previous SARS-CoV-2 infection were 5.49-fold higher than the odds among fully vaccinated recipients of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine who had no previous documented infection (95% confidence interval = 2.75–10.99),” the authors wrote.

The authors suggested that this leads to a clear conclusion: “All eligible persons should be vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible, including unvaccinated persons previously infected with SARS-CoV-2.”

In addition to the Regenstrief Institute, the VISION Network members include Columbia University Irving Medical Center, HealthPartners, Intermountain Healthcare, Kaiser Permanente Northern California, Kaiser Permanente Northwest, and the University of Colorado.

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