With the delta variant surging in the United States, doctors are urging everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated -- including the more than 30 million people who have already had COVID-19.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, getting vaccinated after recovering from infection leads to even stronger protection compared to infection alone. Meanwhile, studies show currently authorized vaccines are likely to offer protection for at least eight months, and likely longer, but much less is known about how long you'll be protected from reinfection after recovering from COVID-19.
Despite these recommendations, some high-profile political figures have insisted that prior infection is enough, and there's no need to get a COVID-19 vaccine for those who have already recovered.
Most notably, in June, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) falsely tweeted that vaccination did not provide additional benefit after COVID-19 infection.
Understandably, some Americans, having now recovered from COVID-19, are left conflicted with the mixed messaging and are unsure what to do next.
“For those who have had COVID and are wondering whether or not to get vaccinated, I would absolutely encourage them to do so now to protect themselves and others,” said Dr. Simone Wildes, an infectious disease physician at South Shore Health and an ABC News Medical contributor.
While the benefits of vaccination after infection are well-documented, there are still many Americans who have neither been vaccinated nor infected, and they also have a choice to make.
Not only is getting a vaccine far safer than being infected with the COVID-19 virus, but studies also show that vaccine-induced immunity may be superior to post-infection immunity. In fact, a recent study published in Science Translational Medicine demonstrated that antibodies induced by the vaccine may better combat a wider range of new viral variants when compared to antibodies induced by infection.
“This is particularly important, as now we are seeing an increase in cases due to the delta variant,” Wildes said.
Experts agree that getting vaccinated after recovering from infection is safe -- and the best way to protect yourself from COVID-19.
However, there are some important instructions the CDC has released for specific groups. Patients who received monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma should wait for 90 days before vaccination. Children who were diagnosed with multisystem inflammatory syndrome should also wait for 90 days after the date of diagnosis.
As the delta variant becomes rampant in unvaccinated communities, and more and more Americans find themselves at a crossroads after infection, experts say it's crucial for everyone to consider vaccination -- even those who were previously infected.
Priscilla Hanudel, M.D., is an emergency medicine physician in Los Angeles and a contributor to the ABC News Medical Unit.