February 15, 2021

How soon can recovering and current COVID-19 patients be vaccinated?

Dr. Emmanuel Walter

As millions of people recover from COVID-19, questions surrounding the vaccine, such as how soon a person can be vaccinated after recovering from COVID-19, are being asked. Moreover, people want to know if it’s OK to receive a vaccine if they currently have COVID-19. We talked to DHVI Investigator, Dr. Chip Walter for answers.

Dr. Emmanuel “Chip” Walter, MD, MPH, Professor of Pediatrics, serves as the Duke Human Vaccine Institute Chief Medical Officer and directs the Duke Vaccine and Trials Unit. He is principal investigator on clinical trials at Duke for COVID-19 vaccines.

Can someone receive the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine if they currently have COVID-19?

People who have had COVID-19 are recommended to get vaccinated with an EUA COVID-19 vaccine. People who are currently symptomatic with COVID should wait until their symptoms are resolved and they are out of the isolation period until they get vaccinated.  For most adults with COVID-19, the period of isolation extends for 10 days after symptom onset.  For persons with more severe COVID-19 illness the period of isolation may extend for up to 20 days.

If someone gets vaccinated while they have COVID-19, will it make their illness worse? 

We do not know the answer here but would recommend that they do not get vaccinated until their symptoms have resolved and are better from the initial illness.

How soon after recovery can someone get vaccinated?

As above, this is based on recovery from symptoms and completion of isolation.

Besides the typical side effects, will the COVID-19 vaccine make you sick if you receive it shortly after recovery?

We do not know the answer to this yet. What we do know, is that people who have had COVID are unlikely to become re-infected in the initial months after infection.  As time passes they are more likely to be at risk. In general, if someone had a very mild illness or was asymptomatic I think it would be fine to get vaccinated after recovery and after isolation. This is likely a few weeks.

For those with more severe illness requiring hospitalization, I think they should be totally better and should get vaccinated after discussing it with their health care provider to assure they are better.  In these cases waiting a little longer may be considered.  Perhaps as long as a few months.