What happens if you contract COVID-19 before your first vaccine dose? Can you still go for your second dose if you contract COVID-19 at some point between dose one and two? You need to wait a minimum of 30 days after contracting COVID-19 before being vaccinated.
"It's important to keep in mind that COVID-19 vaccines provide us with heightened immunity to the disease," says Dr Noluthando Nematswerani, Head of the Centre for Clinical Excellence at Discovery Health. "They do not guarantee that we will not contract the disease. What COVID-19 vaccines are designed to do is to reduce our risk of severe disease if we contract COVID-19 after being vaccinated."
"This is especially important in the case of people who are at risk of severe COVID-19 illness due to their age - those over age 60 - or those with underlying chronic illnesses."
"Encouragingly, early data emanating from vaccination programmes around the world shows a reduction in new infections and deaths in vaccinated people. that a vaccinated person could be unlikely to be infected with COVID-19; however, this is not conclusive. The risk of infection is always there, so we must keep our guard up and practise the measures that lower our risk of exposure like mask wearing, social distancing, hand washing and so on."
Wait 30 days after contracting COVID-19 before being vaccinated (having your first or second COVID-19 vaccine dose)
On 19 May 2021, the National Department of Health announced that for people who have had a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the second dose or 'booster shot' will now be given six weeks or 42 days later.
The National Department of Health also recently provided guidance around the period between contracting COVID-19 and receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
"In a nutshell, this guidance advises that if a person has COVID-19 or has recovered from COVID-19, that the person wait a minimum of 30 days between becoming infected with and being vaccinated against COVID-19," says Dr Nematswerani.
This advice applies to:
- People who contract COVID-19 before their first Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine dose
Wait at least 30 days from the day you tested positive to the day you have your first vaccine dose.
- People who contract COVID-19 after their first dose but before their second dose
Extend the interval between dose one and two so that it takes the 30-day waiting period into account. This means you may have your second dose after the 42 days recommended by the National Department of Health.
"The same advice applies to people who are having a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine like the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Wait 30 days after being infected with COVID-19 before being vaccinated," says Dr Nematswerani.
What happens if I have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19, haven't tested positive myself, but I'm due to go for my vaccine?
"I would suggest you reschedule your vaccine appointment," says Dr Nematswerani. "If you have been in direct contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, please begin your 10-day quarantine period to:
- Protect yourself by taking time to monitor your symptoms (go for a COVID-19 test if you have symptoms and begin your 10-day isolation period if you test positive); and
- Protect others from possible exposure to COVID-19 from you before you test for the disease. Keep in mind that you may have contracted the virus and not have any symptoms.
Why do I need to wait a minimum of 30 days after contracting COVID-19 before receiving a vaccine?
If you've been exposed to COVID-19, quarantine. If you have tested positive, isolate.
"First, we should never venture out while still within our 10-day isolation period and risk exposing others to the disease," explains Dr Nematswerani. "We know we should isolate ourselves until we are no longer contagious."
- At least 10 days since symptoms first appeared
- 10 days from the day of positive test results if you've tested positive but have no symptoms,
- 10 days from clinical stability (last day of receiving oxygen) for those who were admitted to hospital
- At least 24 hours with no fever without fever-reducing medicine
"Secondly and very importantly, you need to give your body time to recover from the illness."
"COVID-19 vaccines are designed to trigger the same the immune response that occurs when we encounter the real COVID-19 virus, but without actually infecting us with the COVID-19 virus. However, this means that being vaccinated will spur the immune system to mount a response, so that it is ready to fight off the real virus should we become infected with it in future. This is how vaccines protect us from severe COVID-19 illness."
"While you're recovering from an active COVID-19 infection and in the immediate period after recovery, your immune system is on high alert and already challenged to respond to the presence of the virus in your body," explains Dr Nematswerani. "With the immune system already primed, we want to avoid vaccine related side effects that are more pronounced due to the heightened immune response as a result of the underlying infection.Common, and expected reactions to being vaccinated including fever, headaches, chills and a sore arm at the injection site. These are a signs that the immune system is revving up in response to the vaccine, and doing what it should. However, we want to avoid creating excessive immune responses in the body by vaccinating people who are fighting or have just recently fought off a COVID-19 infection. Excessive immune responses can be very risky ."
- Find out more about future COVID-19 vaccine booster shots.