COVID-19 vaccination vs. immunity: Local doctor weighs in on the debate

While most medical experts say getting a COVID vaccine is the best way to protect yourself, others argue immunity from a previous infection should count as an alternative.

News Center 7′s Mike Campbell spoke with the chief doctor of a local hospital network about the debate that has many people taking sides on which is better or lasts longer.

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Doctors say you can be protected by both natural immunity, surviving an infection, or from vaccine. The only problem with natural immunity is that you’re not sure how big of a viral load you had in the first place.

“Natural immunity absolutely works, it absolutely protects people, vaccines absolutely work, they absolutely protect people,” said Dr. Roberto Colon, chief medical officer for Miami Valley Hospital.

Colon told News Center 7 there are different studies that portray one side or the other as most effective, and there is no scientific certainty except that the best approach is using both.

“If you’ve had a previous infection and then become vaccinated, you have the best level of protection,” Colon said.

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Colon says people need to stop trying to claim one approach is better or attack the other side of the COVID-19 debate.

Colon did say “it is absolutely not a safe strategy to wait for infection to become immune.”

Colon said that is because you have to survive the infection to gain any natural immunity.

That is becoming more difficult with delta variant and other variants popping up, and without a vaccine, people risk hospitalization and death. Even if a person recovers, they could still have long-term symptoms.

Colon said those that worry about potential side effects of the vaccine, which he labeled as very small, are missing the point that almost all of those dangers are much greater from the virus than the vaccine.

“Heart inflammation particularly, occurs more frequently with COVID-19 vaccines,” Colon said.

Many people that have survived COVID infections have told News Center 7 they don’t believe they are counted in the number of people considered safer from the virus, like vaccinated people are.

Colon said that category of people could count toward a number that may be immune, but no one is sure just how protected they might be.

“We know how much of a vaccine dose everyone got, we don’t know how much virus someone got exposed to,” Colon said.

The one thing doctors said that if you reach a point you are concerned enough to get a COVID test, you’d probably like to be protected as well as possible, and that might include both natural immunity and a vaccine.