Your Covid-19 questions answered

If I have Covid-19 when getting my second jab, will it affect the vaccine efficacy?

09 September 2021 - 07:00
No conclusive study has yet been done on the effects of getting vaccinated while already being infected with Covid-19. File image.
No conclusive study has yet been done on the effects of getting vaccinated while already being infected with Covid-19. File image.
Image: REUTERS/AMANDA PEROBELLI

While no conclusive studies have been done on how effective the vaccine is if a person takes one while suffering from Covid-19, Dr Marlin McKay says it may lead to a worsening of symptoms and/or lower count of antibodies being developed. Still, he urges people not showing symptoms to get vaccinated.

According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, a division of the national health laboratory service, the SA government has chosen to wait an interval of 42 days between the first and second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

It typically takes two weeks after vaccination for the body to build immunity against Covid-19.

But what if, unbeknowns to you, you have Covid-19 at the time of your second jab?

McKay, who runs a medical practice in Roodepoort, told TimesLIVE that no conclusive studies have been done on how effective the vaccine is if a person takes one while suffering from Covid-19.

He said it could lead to a worsening of symptoms, as your body tries to fight the virus while also being stimulated by the vaccine, or you getting better quicker, as the vaccine works with the body to create more antibodies. 

McKay said it may also lead to a lower count of antibodies being developed.

“At the end of the day, it probably doesn't really matter if you get the vaccine without realising you have Covid-19, especially if you are asymptomatic. 

“If you are symptomatic, if you have any symptoms, whether you think it is Covid-19 or not, wait until you are better. If you have been exposed to someone with Covid-19, also rather wait.”

The ministerial advisory committee advised that those who contract Covid-19 in the period between the two doses wait a minimum of 30 days before getting their second dose.

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Dr Noluthando Nematswerani, head of the Centre for Clinical Excellence at Discovery Health, said the 30-day waiting period could fall within the 42 days recommended by the national department of health between jabs, but the time may be extended to allow the 30 days to lapse.

Dr Gareth Kantor told TimesLIVE that getting vaccinated while having Covid-19 will likely not help you overcome the infection you already have.

"The vaccine is not protective early on, vaccine-derived immunity takes weeks to develop. Vaccinating an already infected person does not help that person overcome the infection that’s already established.

"I don’t know whether vaccination at that point makes your immunity less effective overall weeks down the line. I doubt it, but it may be impossible to say without large scale study because of how variable the course of the disease is in different persons."

He said the vaccine is safe, no matter when you take it.

"The key thing to emphasise is that the vaccine is safe no matter when you take it and we are learning more about best timing and duration of effect as we go along. The longer we go unvaccinated as a country the greater the harm for the country - and the world, as there will be more cases and more opportunities for dangerous variants to arise."

McKay said all signs indicate that getting the jab without realising you are sick does not translate to a higher amount of breakthrough infections.

“The benefit of getting the vaccine far outweighs the risk of not getting it,” he said.


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