But if you’re currently dealing with an active infection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends waiting at least until you no longer have symptoms and have met their criteria for ending isolation. (Meaning, if you had a mild infection, it’s been at least five days since your symptoms started, your symptoms are improving and you’ve been fever-free for at least 24 hours without the help of medications.)
That being said, some scientists recommend deferring your booster for even longer. Ali Ellebedy, an immunologist at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said that it might make sense to wait until you’ve fully recovered or can get a negative P.C.R. test, though this isn’t a C.D.C. requirement to end isolation and may not occur until a few weeks (or even months) later.
“You just don’t want to overwhelm your system,” Dr. Ellebedy said. Let your immune system rest after fighting off the coronavirus and before asking it to ramp up again with the vaccine. This will also allow for a more refined and durable response, he said.
And for some, Dr. Ellebedy added, there can be a benefit to waiting even longer. If your risk of reinfection is low — for example if you work remotely, are generally healthy and can adhere to public health guidelines for masking and social distancing — it might make sense to wait until your natural immunity is waning, which could occur up to three months after an infection, before getting boosted, he said. Not only will this help to produce a more robust antibody response, but by the time you’re ready to be boosted, there might be a newer version of the vaccine available that will specifically work against Omicron.
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“The vaccine is derived from the original strain of the coronavirus, and that doesn’t really exist anymore,” Dr. Ellebedy said. “A few months from now, if an Omicron-based vaccine is available, why not take that to prepare for whatever comes next?” Drug companies have begun testing new versions of the Covid booster, which may be available by the summer.
Of course, deferring a booster isn’t the right option for everyone. If you have a high risk of reinfection or serious illness — whether because of your age, medical conditions, a weakened immune system or because you live or work in a setting that increases your likelihood of exposure — then you may want to boost your immunity with an extra vaccine dose sooner rather than later, Dr. Ellebedy added. Getting your booster sooner may also extend protection to vulnerable family members and children who are too young to receive the vaccine.
And of course, most experts agree that if it’s been more than five or six months since you got Covid-19 and you haven’t been boosted yet, you should do so as soon as you’re eligible.