Which provides longer-lasting immunity: Getting COVID or a vaccine?

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Credit: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

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

The short answer: We don’t know. But Covid-19 vaccines have predictably prevented illness, and they are a far safer bet, experts said.

Vaccines for some pathogens, like pneumococcal bacteria, induce better immunity than the natural infection does. Early evidence suggests that the Covid-19 vaccines may fall into this category. 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.

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As many as one in three people who recover from Covid have chronic complaints, including exhaustion and a racing heart, for months afterward. This includes people under 35 with no previous health conditions. Some survivors of Covid also show troubling signs that their body has turned on itself, with symptoms similar to those of lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

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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. “Once you start vaccinating millions, you might find very, very rare events,” [epidemiologist Dr. Bill] Hanage said. “But we have to know that they are very, very rare and much more rare than the adverse events associated with natural infection.”

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