• Natural immunity is just as effective as COVID-19 vaccines for protecting against a future COVID-19 infection
  • Research analysed 65 different reviews that looked at the outcomes of not being vaccinated
  • Study stresses vaccines are still the safest way to protect yourself

Being infected with the coronavirus protects you from developing the virus again in the future, new research has revealed.

Scientists from the University of Washington have found that past COVID-19 infection is as beneficial as vaccines when it comes to improving long-term immunity.

In addition, they discovered that people who have previously contracted COVID-19 are less likely to be admitted to hospital with the disease in the future compared to those who have never been infected with the virus.

The authors said: “For people who have been infected with COVID-19 at least once before, natural immunity against severe disease (hospitalisation and death) was strong and long-lasting for all variants (88% or greater at 10 months post-infection).”

Immunity levels are lower amongst people who were infected with earlier variations of the virus compared to those who contracted newer COVID-19 variants, the study has reported.

Partly funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the research analysed 65 different reviews that looked at the outcomes of not being vaccinated.

According to the findings, previously being infected with COVID-19 offers the same level of protection as mRNA vaccines, such as Pfizer and Moderna.

Main author Dr Stephen Lim said: “Vaccines are still the safest way to protect yourself, as acquiring natural immunity must be weighed against the risks of severe illness and death associated with the initial infection.”

Fellow author Dr Caroline Stein said: “Vaccines continue to be important for everyone in order to protect high-risk populations such as those who are over 60 years of age and those with comorbidities.

“This also includes populations that have not previously been infected and unvaccinated groups, as well as those who were infected or received their last vaccine dose more than six months ago.”

She added: “Decision makers should take both natural immunity and vaccination status into consideration to obtain a full picture of an individual’s immunity profile.”

Read the full study in The Lancet medical journal.

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