CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Clinic said it is still encouraging those previously infected with COVID-19 to get vaccinated despite a recent study among staff that did not find any reinfections. 

What You Need To Know

  • The Cleveland Clinic studied 50,000 employees, including 1,359 unvaccinated workers who previously had the coronavirus

  • None of the 1,359 employees were reinfected with COVID-19

  • The Cleveland Clinic says the findings are preliminary and still encourages the public to get vaccinated

  • The findings could help vaccine distributors to prioritize who gets the vaccine in nations where the vaccine is in short supply

Five Cleveland Clinic researchers co-authored the study.

“The data showed that the vaccine was extremely effective in preventing COVID-19 infection. In addition, we found that none of the previously infected employees who remained unvaccinated were reinfected over the duration of the study,” the Cleveland Clinic said in a statement.

The research released earlier this week has not been peer reviewed and has yet to be evaluated. The study’s authors say that further research is needed before being used for updated medical guidance. 

As CDC guidance calls for those previously infected with the virus to get vaccinated, the Cleveland Clinic is still encouraging shots.

“This is still a new virus, and more research is needed,” the Cleveland Clinic said in a statement. “It is important to keep in mind that this study was conducted in a population that was younger and healthier than the general population. In addition, we do not know how long the immune system will protect itself against reinfection after COVID-19. It is safe to receive the COVID-19 vaccine even if you have previously tested positive, and we recommend all those who are eligible receive it.”

The authors of the research also noted that the durability of the COVID-19 vaccines are also unknown. COVID-19 infection may provide at least 10 months of protection against the virus, the authors said. 

Cleveland Clinic’s study involved more than 50,000 employees of the hospital system during a five-month period following the emergency use authorization of the COVID-19 vaccines. According to the study, 53% of the 2,579 employees who had been infected with COVID-19 remained unvaccinated.

Out of the 1,359 staffers who were unvaccinated and previously infected with COVID-19, none were reinfected during the study. 

New variants of the virus may reduce immunity to the virus, the study said.

Although the COVID-19 vaccine is widely available throughout the United States, distributing the vaccine globally remains a challenge. The Cleveland Clinic said that the study could help vaccine distributors decide who to prioritize.

While the CDC acknowledges that those previously infected do have natural antibodies against the virus, more research is needed. It adds that getting a vaccine is safer than natural immunity. 

“The risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 far outweighs any benefits of natural immunity. COVID-19 vaccination will help protect you by creating an antibody (immune system) response without having to experience sickness,” the CDC said. “Both natural immunity and immunity produced by a vaccine are important parts of COVID-19 disease that experts are trying to learn more about, and CDC will keep the public informed as new evidence becomes available.”