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VERIFY: US officials say to get two vaccine doses, even if you've had COVID-19

France has decided to give people who have recovered from COVID-19 just one mRNA dose. United States regulators say there's not enough data.

WASHINGTON — While the world works to end the pandemic, different countries are taking different approaches to vaccination. Some countries have amended vaccine recommendations to only require one mRNA dose for people who have previously been infected with and recovered from COVID-19.

That's caused a bit of confusion online as we interact with people from all around the world. Some headlines and viral posts may lead you to believe that the one-dose recommendation is the same in the United States. Officials say that's false.

QUESTION:

If you’ve recovered from coronavirus, do you only need one dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine instead of two?

ANSWER:

Not in the United States. Regulators and officials say these are important questions to ask, but data is too preliminary to change official recommendations. As of right now, everyone who receives an mRNA vaccine should get two doses. 

SOURCES:

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

PROCESS:

A number of peer-reviewed studies have been published recently which show promising results on this. This NIH-supported study found that people who had recovered from COVID-19 showed a large immune response to the first dose of an mRNA vaccine, similar to how uninfected people responded to their second dose.

The mRNA vaccines work by directly injecting the genetic instructions for the spike protein on SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus that causes COVID-19.

When your immune system confronts that spike protein, your cells learn how to fight it off; this scrimmage prepares you to fight off COVID-19 should you ever come in contact with it. 

You can watch a full mRNA vaccine explainer here:

All this new data suggests that your body is already primed, in a sense, to recognize and fight against SARS-CoV-2. If this is true, getting two mRNA doses would essentially be two different scrimmages for your immune system.

However, while this data is promising, it is still very preliminary. The VERIFY team reached out to both the CDC and the FDA, and they both said they continue to recommend full mRNA dosage for all Americans, even those who have recovered from COVID-19. 

In a blog published in late February, National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins published a blog on this topic. He explains, "while much more research is needed—and I am definitely not suggesting a change in the current recommendations right now—the results raise the possibility that one dose might be enough for someone who’s been infected with SARS-CoV-2 and already generated antibodies against the virus."

France has already taken this step in the hopes that it may help to stretch vaccine supplies further. In February, French health officials determined that for people who had recovered from COVID-19, just one dose would provide an acceptable level of virus immunity. 

We can VERIFY, the FDA is not updating its vaccine dosage guidelines.

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