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COVID Vaccine or Natural Immunity, Which One Is Better?

Infectious disease expert discusses the efficiency of natural immunity.

Many believe that natural immunity is equal or even superior to vaccines, Monica Gandhi, MD, MPH, a professor of medicine, and the Associate Division Chief of HIV, Infectious Diseases, and Global Medicine at UCSF, shared her take on this idea. 

Gandhi is a member of the COVID Collaborative, which was a part of President Biden’s virtual summit in September called the Global COVID-19 Summit. An infectious disease expert, Ghandi says, “There are two advantages of being an ID [infectious disease] doctor during an infectious disease pandemic. One, is that we also study immunology, which is really important to understanding the vaccines." 

"The second thing," she adds, "Is we have a global view of the pandemic, a global view of infectious diseases and can put COVID-19 into the context of all the other infections that we’ve seen since the beginning of recorded history.”

Gandhi believes we can achieve herd immunity both through natural infection and vaccination, but argues that the best route is through vaccinations. 

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While she acknowledges the effectiveness of natural immunity obtained by contracting COVID-19, she argues that the full extent or duration of that immunity is still unclear—and it’s her view that natural immunity may not produce the memory cells needed to protect someone for life. 

On the question of whether natural immunity is better than the vaccine or that all vaccines are better than natural immunity, Ghandi believes neither view is entirely correct. 

She disputes the view that natural immunity is the strongest protection, and concludes that in her opinion, even those who have had COVID should still consider getting a COVID vaccine.