It’s actually happening: the coronavirus vaccine is being rolled out across the UK. After being approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the Pfizer vaccine is now being administered nationwide.


However, do you need the coronavirus vaccine if you’d already had COVID? Or do you require a slightly different dose than normal?

Simple answer: we don't know. Yet.

“There is currently no recommendation on that for the moment – we do not have enough data,” says Dr Jeremy Rossman, lecturer in virology at the University of Kent.

“Just because the vaccine is approved for most people, doesn't mean we're done studying. It could take a week or six months to get any meaningful data.”

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However, even with streams of data, it may be difficult to create specific guidelines for each person. “There’s just so much variability – some people had very severe cases and some were very mild or symptomless,” says Rossman. “Maybe some people will need only one dose of the vaccine, rather than the usual two. Maybe none at all. We’re not sure yet.”

To solve this problem, scientists need to establish the antibody level that can protect a person from the coronavirus. “After that, we can examine the people that were naturally infected and compare their antibody levels with the vaccine group,” explains Rossman. “We are getting that data, but it’s not here yet.”

Do you really need the coronavirus vaccine if everyone else is taking it?

There's a perverse logic here, right? If everyone else is vaccinated and immune to this disease, your chances of infection are extraordinarily small. You’ll effectively be protected without a vaccine.

However, this thinking contains a predictable flaw: if everyone follows this thought, the vaccine won't be effective. “There’s certainly a level of social responsibility with these vaccines,” says Rossman.

“It's not just about you. All these precautions are important for protecting the health of the people around you. These are the people you interact with within your community and the vulnerable in your community.”

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Thomas Ling
Thomas LingDigital editor, BBC Science Focus

Thomas is Digital editor at BBC Science Focus. Writing about everything from cosmology to anthropology, he specialises in the latest psychology, health and neuroscience discoveries. Thomas has a Masters degree (distinction) in Magazine Journalism from the University of Sheffield and has written for Men’s Health, Vice and Radio Times. He has been shortlisted as the New Digital Talent of the Year at the national magazine Professional Publishers Association (PPA) awards. Also working in academia, Thomas has lectured on the topic of journalism to undergraduate and postgraduate students at The University of Sheffield.