Don’t Freak Out: Catching Covid After You Are Vaccinated Improves Immunity

Associate Professor Nathan Bartlett from University Newcastle and Hunter Medical Research Institute. Picture: David Swift

Don’t Freak Out: Catching Covid After You Are Vaccinated Improves Immunity

For 20 months we’ve cowered behind masks, scrubbed ourselves with hand sanitiser and socially distanced to avoid Covid — now most people are vaccinated, experts are telling us we need to prepare to catch the virus.
It sounds counterintuitive but the argument is if you are vaccinated and catch Covid, you are unlikely to get seriously ill or go to hospital and getting the virus will further boost your immunity.
The new message comes as infections in the US and worldwide appear to have peaked and some scientists are noticing the virus has a wave pattern — two months of high infections followed by a decline then two months of high infections.
With lockdowns in three states due to ease in coming weeks Australian National University’s infectious diseases expert Professor Peter Collignon and University of Newcastle’s Professor Nathan Bartlett said fully vaccinated people needed to change their attitude to the virus.
Prepare yourself to be infected and don’t “freak out” if you do catch it when lockdowns end, they said.
“You might want to get it, you definitely want to get it. You definitely want to be vaccinated before you get it, because if you’re vaccinated your risk of death goes down,” said Prof. Collignon.

You want to be vaccinated before you catch Covid. Picture: Supplied
Prof. Bartlett said: “It’s immunity you want supported by the vaccine but then sort of topped up, by circulation and that’s really is what’s going to ultimately lead to make this turn this virus into basically an endemic, common cold causing virus, and that’s what you want it to be”.
The head of the Australian Society of Infectious diseases (ASID) Allen Cheng said he expected “everyone will probably be exposed, eventually.”
“We want to be vaccinated, so we have the best defences against it when it happens that we meet the virus,” he said.
A study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and another by one of Israel’s largest health providers found people who’d recovered from Covid and were later vaccinated had half the risk of reinfection compared with unvaccinated people who’d previously had Covid.
The Kaolinska Institute’s Charlotte Thalin told The Conversation combining natural infection with protection from a vaccine may work better because natural infection exposes our immune system to several viral proteins while vaccines introduce a single antigen: the spike protein.
But, like the other experts, she cautions you want to be vaccinated before getting infected because getting a natural infection first exposes you to the risks of death, blood clots and long Covid.
Many vaccinated people are likely to get infected because vaccines are less effective at preventing infection with the Delta variant.
Pfizer’s protection plunges from 93 per cent to 53 per cent after four months, a study published in The Lancet this week found.
However, the vaccines are still good at preventing 80-90 per cent of infected people from needing a hospital bed and are almost 100 per cent protective against death.

Australian Olympic Swimmer Madi Wilson caught COVID while overseas. Picture: Instagram/Supplied
Tokyo Olympics gold medallist swimmer Madison Wilson is living proof of how vaccination can protect a person even if they catch the infection.
The 27 year old was hospitalised for four days with Covid on September 19, but went on win a Gold medal in the 200 metre freestyle event at the FINA championships on October 3.
Ms Wilson said she “truly believed” the vaccine had minimised her symptoms.
“I want to continue to encourage people to get vaccinated, I did end up in hospital but that is as a precaution because I do have underlying chest and lung issues,” she said.
Her win at the international competition “means even more with what I’ve, what I’ve gone through in the last couple of weeks,” she said.
After being released from hospital in Rome, she spent 11 days in hotel quarantine which meant she was unable to train in a pool.
She said it “was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do not only physically but mentally laying on my back for that period of time.”
“But everything that I’ve learned over the last few weeks is the mind is incredibly strong and probably even stronger than what the body is,” she said.

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