How Long Should You Wait to Get the COVID Vaccine After Catching Coronavirus?

Even if you've already had coronavirus and recovered from it, you should get vaccinated against COVID-19 because it is possible to get reinfected, as has happened to numerous people in the U.S. and around the world. But how long should you wait?

The first reinfection death was recorded in October when, two months after recovering from COVID, a woman in the Netherlands died after being infected with a different strain of the virus.

Key questions yet to be answered by experts include how long the COVID-19 antibodies in your system can protect you from the virus, and how high the levels of antibodies in your system would need to be in order to keep protecting you.

Natural immunity varies from person to person, and there is still a lot that we don't yet know about the virus and immunity levels.

However, the fact that there have been numerous instances of people getting reinfected after recovering from the virus indicates that natural immunity wears off over time.

"Current evidence suggests that getting the virus again (reinfection) is uncommon in the 90 days after the first infection with the virus that causes COVID-19," says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It recommends waiting up to 90 days after recovering from the virus before getting vaccinated, especially if you were treated for COVID-19 symptoms with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma.

"While there is no recommended minimum interval between infection and vaccination, current evidence suggests that the risk of SARS-CoV-2 reinfection is low in the months after initial infection but may increase with time due to waning immunity," the CDC continues.

"Thus, while vaccine supply remains limited, persons with recent documented acute SARS-CoV-2 infection may choose to temporarily delay vaccination, if desired, recognizing that the risk of reinfection, and therefore the need for vaccination, may increase with time following initial infection."

Hackensack Meridian Health also recommends waiting up to 90 days for a vaccination after recovering from the virus.

That isn't a requirement, and you can get vaccinated sooner if you want to. However, Hackensack Meridian Health says that you must fully recover from the virus first.

"If you're actively sick with COVID-19, or if you've just recovered, hold off for a while before getting vaccinated. Experts recommend that you wait until you are fully recovered from your infection and are no longer in isolation before you receive a COVID-19 vaccine," it says.

"Given the limited vaccine supply and your natural immunity following your COVID infection, you may wish to wait up to 90 days for the vaccine (so that others – who have no immunity – can receive their vaccine now). However, you are not required to wait 90 days."

Several different strains of the virus have now been detected in the U.S., most notably variants that were first recorded in the U.K., South Africa, and Brazil.

The CDC has predicted that the U.K. variant could become the most dominant strain in the U.S. by March, while preliminary studies have indicated that the South Africa variant could be more resistant to existing vaccines.

A nurse fills syringes with Moderna vaccine
A nurse fills a syringe with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts on February 1, 2021. CDC recommends waiting up to 90 days after recovering from the virus before getting vaccinated. Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images