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Necessity of COVID-19 Vaccination in Previously Infected Individuals: A Retrospective Cohort Study

By Nabin Shrestha, Patrick C. Burke, Amy S. Nowacki, Paul Terpeluk, Steven M. Gordon

Posted 04 Jun 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.06.01.21258176

Background: There are good reasons to expect natural infection to provide protection against future infection with SARS-CoV-2. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the necessity of COVID-19 vaccination in persons previously infected with SARS-CoV-2. Methods: Employees of the Cleveland Clinic Health System working in Ohio on Dec 16, 2020, the day COVID-19 vaccination was started, were included. Any subject who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 at least 42 days earlier was considered previously infected. One was considered vaccinated 14 days after receipt of the second dose of a SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine. The cumulative incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection over the next four months, among previously infected subjects who received the vaccine, was compared with those of previously infected subjects who remained unvaccinated, previously uninfected subjects who received the vaccine, and previously uninfected subjects who remained unvaccinated. Results: Among the 52238 included employees, 1220 (47%) of 2579 previously infected subjects received the vaccine, compared with 29461 (59%) of 49659 not previously infected. The cumulative incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection did not differ among previously infected unvaccinated subjects, previously infected subjects who were vaccinated, and previously uninfected subjects who were vaccinated, and was much lower than that of previously uninfected subjects who remained unvaccinated. Not one of the 1359 previously infected subjects who remained unvaccinated had a SARS-CoV-2 infection over the duration of the study. Conclusion: Individuals who have had SARS-CoV-2 infection are unlikely to benefit from COVID-19 vaccination, and vaccines can be safely prioritized to those who have not been infected before.

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