Fact vs. Fiction: Is natural immunity better than getting the COVID-19 vaccine?

PITTSBURGH — The race to vaccinate has people across our area scrambling to try to get an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine.  But there are also many unanswered questions surrounding the different vaccines.

We’re digging into your questions and concerns about the vaccine and getting answers from experts.

Is natural immunity better than getting the COVID-19 vaccine?

Doctors say there are several factors that make getting COVID-19 a bad idea. First is the random nature of the severity of COVID-19 symptoms for any one individual. Second is the unknown long-term impact.

Our local expert says studies are showing the vaccine seems to provide broader and stronger immunity, especially when it comes to protection against variant strains like the ones from the U.S. or South Africa.

“It is looking like it’s generating immunity to all the variants that we know about so far. Whereas if you’ve had natural immunity, it’s possible that you may just generate immunity to the variant that you’ve had,” said Dr. Nathan Shively, an infectious disease specialist.

Can the COVID-19 vaccine cause infertility?

Some rumors suggest the vaccine can threaten fertility because it contains that spike protein, like proteins used to make the placenta. Posts on social media claim this could confuse the body and cause it to attack the placenta, but experts say there is no data to support that.

“This is a myth that was generated, I think on social media. There’s absolutely no evidence that the vaccine can cause infertility. There’s no scientific plausibility that it could cause infertility,” Shively said. “There’s no reason to believe that those antibodies would attack anything in the placenta or anywhere else that would cause other problems or cause people to be infertile.”

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for children?

The Pfizer vaccine is authorized for children 16 and older and the Moderna vaccine is authorized for anyone 18 and above, but for younger children, there is just not enough data to say whether the COVID-19 vaccine is safe.

“Those trials are ongoing, so children are being enrolled into trials to look at both the safety and efficacy of the vaccines in children. I’m hopeful. I’m optimistic that we’re going to see both safety and efficacy in children, but we don’t have that data yet, and that’s why we do the study so that we make sure it’s safe and effective before we get to them,” Shively said.

We hope to hear more on studies in children by summer.

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