Should You Get the Covid Vaccine after Having Covid 19?

Covid Vaccine

You’d have to be living under a rock to be unaware of the Covid vaccines now available worldwide. Maybe your social media feed is cluttered with the post-vacc selfies of your friends and co-workers, and you’re starting to wonder whether it’s time you got vaccinated yourself. 

Peer pressure aside, getting vaccinated is a good idea regardless of whether you’ve already had Covid. Keep reading to learn why I got the Covid vaccine after having Covid and what side effects I experienced.

Disclaimer: Remember, I’m a physical therapist: not an immunologist nor an infectious disease physician. Nor am I your physician – the only one who should be giving you medical advice. In this article I’m merely sharing my experience of the Covid vaccine, particularly as someone who had contracted Covid 2.5 months earlier.

Getting the Covid Vaccine After Having Covid

That’s right – I had Covid, back in December, along with 200k other Americans at the time. The vaccines had just started to roll out, but the virus was running rampant from the winter holiday season. Despite my distancing diligence, I got sick and tested positive for Covid-19.

I experienced mild symptoms of Covid, some of which I didn’t expect. Initially I had sinus pressure, a slight cough and fatigue – signifying any number of infections. What set this apart from other illnesses, however, was my severe muscle aches, nerve pain, cardiovascular weakness, and anosmia (loss of taste and smell) characteristic of the coronavirus. 

Fortunately, I recovered from my mild case of Covid without any complications. Perhaps the longest-lasting symptom was anosmia, which took three weeks to fully recover. But after becoming 100% better and eligible for a vaccine, I began to question whether to get vaccinated.

Should You Wait to Get Vaccinated?

At the time of my illness, it was unclear how soon someone should get vaccinated after recovering from Covid. The CDC was recommending people wait 90 days after recovering from Covid before getting the vaccine.

Besides this three-month interval, I knew that my body had produced antibodies that would defend against a second infection, so I wondered how long I could ride on those antibodies before needing an immunity boost from the vaccine. 

Vaccine Recommendations and Research

When it comes to Covid information, all of us – health professionals, politicians, civilians alike – are learning as we go. Public advisories are constantly changing to reflect the most current research. As we saw with mask mandates, even the CDC has had to retract or amend an advisory if the latest science warrants it. That’s why since December they have changed their tune on post-Covid vaccination.

Instead of waiting 90 days, they CDC recommends you get vaccinated as long as you have fully recovered from your illness and finished your quarantine. Depending on your experience, that could be as soon as a month. 

The truth is, we are still learning as we go. The CDC has yet to make a definitive statement on how long vaccine-induced immunity lasts, nor how effective natural immunity is. It is possible, albeit rare, to experience a second infection of Covid-19 after recovering.

Because natural immunity might not be enough to end the pandemic, vaccines are a safe and effective way to boost your immunity and avoid severe illness from Covid. (You can read the supporting research for that statement here.)

In light of this research, last month I went ahead and signed myself up for a Covid vaccine, even though it had been less than 90 days since my recovery from Covid. After two and a half months, I didn’t want to risk getting sick and spreading this potentially fatal illness.

Besides, the last thing I wanted was a second bout with Covid! 

What to Expect from the Covid Vaccine

Wondering what to expect from the vaccine?

If you’ve gone all this time without contracting Covid, your body will need to start from scratch to build an immunity, and you might not have much of a reaction to the shot. 

The inoculation is itself unremarkable – as painless as a flu shot. Following this, most people experience soreness at the sight of the injection for a day or two. If you get a two-dose vaccine, such as the Moderna or Pfizer, you might notice more symptoms or increased severity of symptoms after the second shot. 

Following your second vaccine shot, it’s normal to run a slight fever, get a headache, feel nauseous or fatigued, or have muscle soreness throughout your body. These symptoms indicate that your body has recognized the imposing viral protein and recruited newly-built T-lymphocytes and antibodies to fight it off.

What to Expect from the Covid Vaccine after having Covid

But if you already had Covid-19 like I did, you’ll likely feel side effects after your first shot. That’s because, following your bout with Covid, your body’s virus-fighting cells will recognize the vaccine’s look-alike protein and immediately gather forces to combat it. 

Anytime your immune system mounts a response to infection, you run the risk of a slight fever, headache, muscle aches and fatigue. So these symptoms indicate that the vaccine has worked! It has trained your body to defend against this protein, which looks like Covid but isn’t the virus itself. 

Covid Vaccine: My Experience and Symptoms

Because I had had Covid before, both vaccine shots gave me identical side effects. The symptoms lasted for 2 days each time, mostly consisting of fatigue and muscle aches.

I’m glad I knew what to expect, because I scheduled both vaccine appointments on a Friday. That gave me two days to ride out the symptoms before returning to the clinic on Monday.

After my bout with Covid, I knew how to address the symptoms from my vaccine shots. Despite my fatigue, I kept myself moving with light activity and drank plenty of water. I took Advil and used my massage gun to relieve the aches in my muscles.

Overall, the side effects from the vaccine weren’t bad at all, just annoying to have to deal with twice. I’m glad I got the vaccine, however, because I know that the symptoms of Covid are potentially far worse than the aches that plagued my two weekends. 

My Advice for the Covid Vaccine

After looking into the research, I wish I had had the opportunity to get a single-dose Covid vaccine. Research shows that if you already had Covid-19, one vaccine dose may be all you need to develop a strong number of antibodies and fight against future infection. 

As of right now, there is no formal statement from the CDC regarding the efficacy of a one-dose treatment for people who previously had Covid-19.

But if I had a choice today, I would get the one-dose vaccine and avoid two weekends of annoying muscle aches.

All in all, my vaccination experience wasn’t that bad. I just felt tired all weekend and sore for a few days. It’s worth the inconvenience knowing I’ve boosted my body’s defenses and made it that much harder for Covid to spread.

Tim Fraticelli DPT, MBA, CFP®

Tim Fraticelli is a Physical Therapist, Certified Financial Planner™ and founder of PTProgress.com. He loves to teach PTs and OTs ways to save time and money in and out of the clinic, especially when it comes to documentation or continuing education. Follow him on YouTube for weekly videos on ways to improve your financial health.