Doctors say people with previous COVID-19 infections should get vaccinated as Delta variant spreads

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Area doctors say some COVID-19 survivors are questioning whether they need to get the vaccine after a study by the Cleveland Clinic shows previously infected workers had similar protection to vaccinated employees. Experts say take it with a grain of salt.

"I think most of the studies that have looked at reinfections have not gone to the point of describing the variants," said Dr. Nasia Safdar, medical director of infection control at UW Health.

Dr. Safdar says she's concerned about the potential for re-infection with a different variant for people who have recovered from COVID-19.

"You know we don't know what quite the magnitude of these re-infections are," she adds. "Are there many or are there few? But I think it's safe to assume that it is a risk."

"The jury is still out on exactly how much immunity is provided by natural infection from COVID," said Dr. Ben Weston, medical director for the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management.

Experts say the Cleveland Clinic study, which is waiting to be peer reviewed, only followed clinic workers for five months, and clinic employees are typically younger and healthier than the general population.

"Many people have taken this to mean that those who have had COVID in the past may not need to be vaccinated, but this would be a misunderstanding of evidence from this trial," Dr. Weston says. "It's also a narrow view of the research that is widely available."

The Cleveland Clinic came out with a statement after the study was published recommending eligible people still receive the vaccine.

"Areas where a lot of people have gotten vaccinated, rates have plummeted, things are getting back to normal -- so our way out of this pandemic is for people to get vaccinated," Dr. Safdar said.

On Wednesday, June 16, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services urged people to get vaccinated because of the contagious and more severe Delta variant. The variant is now being tracked and classified as 'a variant of concern' with 26 cases detected in Wisconsin since April 2021.

Doctors say some of the new widely circulating variants have also proven to be good at evading naturally developed immunity, and many more studies have shown better antibody presence after a vaccine.

"That is to say previous COVID infection does not protect you from several of the new variants as effectively as the vaccine," adds Dr. Weston.

Dr. Weston says while vaccination is a personal choice, make no mistake that is a critical choice.

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