Study: mRNA vaccines associated with more immunity than prior COVID-19 infection

A nationwide study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are associated with significantly more immunity than a prior COVID-19 infection.

Researchers from the CDC's VISION Network gathered data from more than 201,000 hospitalizations in nine different states. About 7,000 people in that group fit the criteria for this study. The research team analyzed the number of unvaccinated individuals who had a positive COVID-19 test more than three months before being hospitalized for the virus as well as the number of individuals who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and were not diagnosed with COVID prior to being admitted to the hospital. The research team found that overall, unvaccinated adults with a previous COVID-19 infection were about five times more likely to be hospitalized than those who were vaccinated.

This data provides powerful evidence that vaccinations offer superior protection against COVID-19 than relying on natural immunity alone. Many have been asking if they should get vaccinated if they've already been infected – this research shows the answer is yes."

Shaun Grannis, M.D., M.S., vice president for data and analytics, Regenstrief Institute and professor of family medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine

Regenstrief contributes data and expertise to the VISION Network.

The data analysis also found among adults older than 65, overall mRNA vaccines were nearly 20 times more effective at preventing hospitalizations than prior infection alone.

Authors are from 10 states and 14 institutions, including the public sector, research, clinical and academia. Dr. Grannis was the second author of about 50. Other Regenstrief authors include Brian E. Dixon, PhD, MPA, Regenstrief and IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health; William F. Fadel, PhD, a Regenstrief fellow; Peter J. Embi, M.D., M.S., Regenstrief and IU School of Medicine; and Nimish Ramesh Valvi, DrPH, MBBS, a Regenstrief fellow.

The study findings are consistent with laboratory evidence that mRNA vaccines create high levels of antibodies, whereas those who recover from COVID-19 have varying levels of antibodies, especially if they experienced mild symptoms or were asymptomatic.

The VISION Network, which conducted the study, includes seven organizations that contribute and analyze data from U.S. healthcare systems to learn more about COVID-19. In addition to Regenstrief Institute, other members are Columbia University Irving Medical Center, HealthPartners, Intermountain Healthcare, Kaiser Permanente Northern California, Kaiser Permanente Northwest and University of Colorado.

Journal reference:

Bozio, C.H., et al. (2021) Laboratory-Confirmed COVID-19 Among Adults Hospitalized with COVID-19-Like Illness with Infection-Induced or mRNA Vaccine-Induced SARS-CoV-2 Immunity — Nine States, January-September 2021. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.


  1. S Yao S Yao United States says:

    Did they match the patients for the same time points? For example, were unvaccinated patients who developed COVID four months after a previous infection compared to those who’d been vaccinated four months prior? Otherwise, it would seem disingenuous to compare someone whose antibodies from natural infection have been waning for months to someone who may have been vaccinated very recently.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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