What happens if you get COVID-19 between vaccine doses?
What happens if you get COVID-19 between vaccine doses?

What happens if you get COVID-19 between vaccine doses?

Vaccines are a valuable tool to protect us from COVID-19. However, it is still possible to get sick with COVID-19 even if you have been vaccinated. These are called breakthrough infections.

Two of the three COVID-19 vaccines in use in the United States require multiple doses. Because of this, you may be wondering what happens if you get COVID-19 between your vaccine doses.

In this article, we will look at how it is possible to get COVID-19 after your first vaccine dose and what to do if it happens to you.

There is 3 COVID-19 vaccines currently in use in the United States:

The mRNA vaccines are given as 2 doses because it was found that a single dose led to a rather weak immune response. Adding the second dose increases the immune response to the vaccine, making it more effective in protecting you from COVID-19 infection.

Because of this, although the mRNA vaccines give you some protection after a single dose, it is still possible to get COVID-19 between doses.

That clinical trials for both of these vaccines, the efficacy of the vaccine was assessed after a single dose. Let’s see what the data said.


In the clinical trial of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, 39 people who received the vaccine received COVID-19 between doses compared to 82 people in the placebo group.

The researchers calculated that the efficacy of the vaccine to prevent COVID-19 between the first and second vaccine dose was 52 percent.

This means that compared to those who received a placebo injection, participants who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were approximately half as likely to receive COVID-19 after a single dose.


In a document submitted to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), researchers analyzed a small group of volunteers who received only one dose of the Moderna vaccine or a placebo. Within the first 14 days, a vaccine effectiveness is on 50.8 pct was notified.

But as time goes on, the picture changes. Within the larger group of clinical trials, only 11 subjects receiving the vaccine received COVID-19 2 weeks or longer after their first dose, compared with 225 subjects in the placebo group.

This corresponds to a vaccine efficacy of 95.2 percent starting 2 weeks after the first dose.

If you receive COVID-19 between your vaccine doses, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you postpone your next dose until you have recovered from your illness.

Although there is no specific time period to wait after recovering from COVID-19, most doctors recommend waiting at least 2 weeks.

You can receive your next dose of the vaccine once you have met the CDCs guidelines for cessation of isolation. At the time of writing, these guidelines are as follows:

  • Stay home. Stay home too at least 5 days after your symptoms start or after a positive COVID-19 test. Wear a mask when you need to be around others in your household.
  • End of isolation. When you can finish isolation depends on your specific situation:
    • If you had symptoms, you can end the isolation after at least 5 full days if you have not had a fever for at least 24 hours and your other symptoms start to get better.
    • If you had no symptoms, you can complete isolation for at least 5 full days after your positive COVID-19 test.
    • If you were very ill or have a weakened immune system, isolate yourself for at least 10 days. Be sure to consult your doctor before leaving the isolation.
  • Mask on. After your 5 day isolation ends, continue wearing a mask at home and in public for another 5 full days. During this time, do not go to public places where you can not wear a mask, such as restaurants or gyms.

These guidelines apply to everyone, regardless of their vaccination status. So if you received COVID-19 between vaccine doses, you can schedule your second dose after your isolation period ends.

If your isolation period causes you to miss the 3-week or 4-week interval between vaccine doses, it’s OK. In this situation, the CDC will recommend that you get your second dose as close to this window period as possible. You do not need to restart the vaccine series.

It is still important to receive your second dose of COVID-19 vaccine even if you had to delay it due to COVID-19 between doses. This is because it is still unclear exactly how long the natural immunity to COVID-19 lasts.

In fact, there is some recent evidence that individuals who have had COVID-19 and have been vaccinated against COVID-19 may have improved immunity. This is called superimmunity.

ONE January 2022 study explored this concept. It found that compared to people who had only received the vaccine, people who received COVID-19 either before or after their vaccination had a greater increase in antibodies which largely neutralizes the virus.

Protection from COVID-19 vaccines decreases over time. Although the vaccines are still very effective in protecting you from serious illness, hospitalization or death due to COVID-19, you may be more susceptible to mild or moderate illness as your immunity diminishes.

Because of this, CDC recommend booster shots for all 12 years and older.

You can choose another COVID-19 vaccine as your booster, but when you are eligible for a booster depends on the vaccine you originally received:

  • If you have received a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine: You can get a booster at least 5 months after your first 2-dose vaccine series. One of the two mRNA vaccines can be used as a booster.
  • If you have received a J&J vaccine: You can get a booster at least 2 months after your first single-dose vaccine.

As with your first COVID-19 vaccines, it is important to get a booster even if you have already had COVID-19.

If you are given COVID-19 before you are boosted, make sure you have recovered and met the isolation guidelines before planning your booster.

A booster for some vaccines is quite normal. A few examples of vaccines that require boosters include:

None of the COVID-19 vaccines are 100 percent effective in preventing COVID-19. This is especially true after only a single dose of the mRNA vaccines. Although the likelihood is reduced, it is still possible to get COVID-19 between doses.

If you receive COVID-19 between vaccine doses, postpone your second dose until you recover and are ready to leave isolation. Depending on which mRNA vaccine you received, try to schedule your second dose as close to the 3-week or 4-week window period as you can.

It is important to get both your primary vaccines and a booster, even if you have already had COVID-19. If you have any questions or concerns about COVID-19 vaccines, be sure to contact your doctor.

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