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On Vaccine Immunity

Q. Which produces a stronger immune response: a natural infection or a vaccine?

A. We don’t know, but early evidence suggests that Covid-19 vaccines may induce better immunity than natural infection. Volunteers who received the Moderna shot had more antibodies — one marker of immune response — in their blood than did people who had been sick with Covid-19. While natural immunity from the coronavirus is strong, it varies widely among people and can wane within a few months in those who had only a mild infection.

Q. I’m young, healthy and at low risk of Covid. Why not take my chances with that rather than get a rushed vaccine?

A. The experts were unanimous in their answer: Covid-19 is by far the more dangerous option. On average, the virus seems to be less risky for younger people, but that is a broad generalization. For example, in a study of more than 3,000 people, ages 18 to 34, who were hospitalized for Covid, 20 percent required intensive care and 3 percent died. Covid vaccines, in contrast, carry little known risk. They have been tested in tens of thousands of people with no serious side effects — at least so far.

Q. I had Covid. Is it safe for me to get a vaccine? If so, when can I get one?

A. Experts said that it’s safe, and probably even beneficial, for anyone who has had Covid to get the vaccine at some point. But if you’ve already had Covid-19, you can afford to wait awhile for the vaccine. Studies have shown that people who have had Covid have some level of protection during the first few months after infection. Because there is so little vaccine available at the moment, some experts think that those who have had Covid should not be in the front of the line.

Apoorva Mandavilli . New York Times

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