People who have recovered from COVID don't necessarily have to wait on vaccination

Experts now say people like Will, who got COVID between vaccine doses, can get their second shot as soon as they recover. (Supplied: Will Castles)

After contracting COVID at school, Oliver spent his 18th birthday isolating at home, while trying to prepare for his VCE exams.

Now he has recovered, his mother is getting mixed messages about when he should get vaccinated.

"I just wanted to have clear answers from the experts about what we should do, and I don't think I have those answers," Jennifer told Raf Epstein.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) says "vaccination can be deferred for up to six months" for people who have had COVID, "as past infection reduces the chance of reinfection for at least this amount of time".

However, they also say "there is no requirement to delay vaccination" if a person feels well.

"People should not be vaccinated until they have recovered from the acute illness," ATAGI said.

"People with prolonged symptoms from COVID-19 beyond 6 months should be vaccinated on a case-by-case basis."

Will Castles had received one shot when he caught COVID in August.

When he first recovered from the virus, he was told he should wait six months before having his second dose.

Feel well again? Most should get vaccine

Senior medical advisor to the COVID-19 vaccine program in Victoria, Thomas Schulz, said people like Oliver and Mr Castles should get the vaccine as soon as they are well.

"Victoria has now moved to making a recommendation that ... it is preferred you have the vaccination as soon as you've recovered from COVID," Dr Schulz said.

Melbourne GP Mukesh Haikerwal said while they previously advised COVID patients to wait for vaccination, his clinics have updated their guidance to be in line with Victoria's current recommendations.

"People don't have to wait six months anymore, our advice is when you are feeling fit and well you should get the vaccine," Dr Haikerwal said.

Medical experts say vaccination can be delayed because once a person recovers from COVID they will have a level of natural immunity.

"Waiting six months is still solid health advice," Dr Schulz said.

When vaccine supply was limited, it made sense for people with natural immunity to delay getting vaccinated, so people with no immunity could be protected.

Now Australia does not have supply issues, this is no longer the preference in Victoria.

There is an exception...

Dr Schulz said the only people who should wait to get the vaccine are COVID patients who were given the monoclonal antibody therapy sotrovimab.

Sotrovimab is given to a relatively small number of coronavirus patients and is administered intravenously.

"They can get a temporary vaccine exemption through a doctor, who will make an application to the Australian Immunisation Registry."

If your COVID symptoms persist long-term, you should get advice from your GP about when to get vaccinated.

Certificates for those who need to delay vaccine

With many freedoms contingent on individuals being fully vaccinated in the coming months, the federal government has confirmed people who need to delay their jab will be able to get an exemption certificate.

"People who have had COVID-19 in the last six months are ably to apply for a temporary medical exemption to a COVID-19 vaccine and will be able to access a COVID-19 digital certificate from mid-October," a statement from the federal Health Department said.

"Australians who have caught COVID-19 and require an exemption should speak with their GP or a medical professional regarding their situation."

Countries including the Netherlands, France and Israel all offer 'proof of COVID recovery' certificates in the weeks after a person has had coronavirus, as an alternative to proof of vaccination.


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