With a broad new group of Utahns now eligible for coronavirus vaccine, what about those among them who had COVID-19 during the state’s holiday surge — do they have to sit out the line until 90 days have passed?
From a medical viewpoint, no. But, depending on who you’re getting your shot from, you might end up being asked to put off your vaccination for three months.
“There is no medical reason to wait 90 days,” said Salt Lake County Health Department spokesman Nicholas Rupp. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “has always said people with COVID are eligible for the vaccine as soon as they are out of isolation.”
And, according to the CDC, the criteria for ending isolation includes that “at least 10 days have passed since symptom onset.”
The county’s online registration form asks residents if they’ve ever tested positive for the coronavirus, but it does not ask them when.
The CDC also advises that there is “evidence suggesting that reinfection is uncommon in the 90 days after initial infection,” meaning that if you’ve tested positive — if you’ve had the coronavirus and recovered — you need the vaccine less than those who have not.
“For inventory purposes, the governor has asked Utahns who’ve had COVID to wait 90 days since they likely have antibodies for at least that long,” Rupp said. “While we ask people to wait 90 days to respect the governor’s request, we do not enforce it because it does not align with CDC guidelines.”
That’s where there’s some confusion. Intermountain Healthcare advises on its website that anyone who is either currently sick with COVID-19 or has had a positive test “in the past 90 days” is not eligible for a vaccination “based on CDC guidelines.” It points to a CDC statement that because there is “evidence suggesting that reinfection is uncommon in the 90 days after initial infection, vaccination should be deferred for at least 90 days.”
That’s part of a larger answer to a question about COVID-19 patients who were treated with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma. And the CDC does advise that those people “should wait 90 days” before being vaccinated, as “a precautionary measure until additional information becomes available, to avoid potential interference of the antibody therapy with vaccine-induced immune responses.”
According to spokesman Lance Madigan, Intermountain patients who have tested positive in the past 90 days will be advised to wait.
“You don’t need the vaccine because you’re already immune,” he said. “That’s the reasoning behind that — so that we can give that vaccine to somebody who doesn’t have that immunity.”
Intermountain is also asking patients who test positive after their first dose (of the two-dose Moderna or Pfizer vaccines) to wait 90 days before they receive their second dose. Salt Lake County is, once again, asking those patients to wait 10 days after their symptoms begin.
Medical authorities across the board do, however, recommend that people who have tested positive for COVID-19 — whether they had symptoms or not — should get vaccinated.
“That’s because experts do not yet know,” according to the CDC, “how long you are protected from getting sick again after recovering. … It is possible — although rare — that you could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 again.”