Does Vaccination Provide Immune System Protection Against COVID-19 Infection?

Family Medicine

Despite warnings from viral epidemiologists and scientists, the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic caught most of the world by surprise. Although it has wreaked havoc on communities worldwide, researchers and pharmaceutical companies rose to the challenge, creating vaccines within record-breaking time. However, this accomplishment alone will not suffice to overcome the pandemic. Widespread vaccination is necessary for populations to reach herd immunity, a condition in which a large enough percentage of the population is immune to an infectious disease, thereby providing indirect protection to the entire population. 

When a large percentage of the population is vaccinated against an infectious disease like COVID-19, the risk of infection and transmission is significantly reduced. This means that the population is less likely to experience large-scale outbreaks, allowing life to return to normal. Of course, does not address every concern about the impact of vaccination on immunity.

Does COVID-19 Vaccination Offer Complete Protection against Infection and is it advisable or necessary for you to get vaccinated if you have previously suffered from Covid-19 infection?

At present, India has three COVID-19 vaccines that are approved for use – Covaxin, Covishield, and Sputnik V. All of these are non-replicating vaccines, including inactivated or subunit and nucleic acid vaccines. While Covaxin has been developed indigenously, Covishield is the Indian version of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, and Sputnik V was developed in Russia. All three vaccines have been found to be effective at preventing COVID-19 infection with high levels of efficacy ranging from 63.09% to 92%. All of the vaccines available in India have undergone numerous phases of trials to ensure their safety and efficacy as pointed out by the Government of India and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW).

At the same time, you should keep in mind that no vaccine offers 100% protection against infection. However, the risk of infection is considerably lower and the risk of severe COVID-19 infection is even lower. As mentioned earlier, the risk of infection is also reduced as a larger percentage of the population gets vaccinated. All COVID-19 vaccines that are approved for use in India must also be administered in two dosages. This means that you can still get infected before receiving the second dose of the vaccine. This is why it is important to continue to exercise caution even after receiving your first dose.

Is vaccination safe and necessary for those who have been previously infected with COVID-19?

The Government of India and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) recommends that all individuals who have previously tested positive for COVID-19 and have fully recovered should receive the vaccine. This will help to strengthen the immune response against the virus as infection with COVID-19 is believed to only provide protection for a limited duration. Moreover, research suggests that people who have been previously infected show a better response to vaccination and may get the same immune benefits from a single dose as most people get from two doses.  It is best to wait for one to two months after recovery from COVID symptoms before seeking vaccination.

Individuals who have recently tested positive or are suspected to have COVID-19 infection should wait for at least two weeks post-recovery to seek vaccination as they could pose a high risk of transmitting the virus to others at the vaccination site.

Can I Resume Normal Activities After Getting Fully Vaccinated?

Eventually, we will all be able to return to normal life after we have been vaccinated. However, this also requires vaccination of a large section of the population to reach herd immunity. While getting vaccinated does provide protection against possible infection and severe COVID-19 symptoms, it does not provide 100% protection. It is also part of our social responsibility to continue complying with precautionary measures including hand-washing, mask-wearing, and social distancing. Doing so will make it easier for us to overcome the pandemic not just as individuals, but as a society.


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