NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – As vaccine mandates become more widespread, some are wondering why they should get the vaccine if they already had COVID-19. The state’s epidemiologist says it’s not clear if people who already had COVID have the same level of antibodies as those who are vaccinated.

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Dr. Christine Ross, the state epidemiologist for the New Mexico Department of Health, says the level of immunity could depend on a person’s response to the virus. “People who become infected with SARS-CoV-2 and have COVID-19 disease, they can have asymptomatic, mild, all the way to very severe disease. And so it appears that your immune response and then perhaps the robustness of that response and the duration of that response could correlate to what sort of infection or disease did you experience,” said Dr. Ross.

Dr. David Scrase, cabinet secretary for the Health and Human Services Department, says 12% of all New Mexicans have been infected with COVID-19 and of those people, about half have also been vaccinated. Dr. Scrase says that suggests about 76% of people in the state have some level of immunity which he says is encouraging.

However, Dr. Scrase says it could be some time before unvaccinated people could bypass vaccination mandates by showing proof of immunity through antibody tests. “When you get the lab report back that says whether they have antibodies or not .. the report says it’s not possible to actually interpret this information. There’s no guidance whatsoever. So before we got to a place where natural immunity could let’s say a passport, we would need a reliable way of measuring that immunity apart from the history of having COVID,” Dr. Scrase said.

Both doctors are still encouraging people to get the vaccine regardless if they’ve had COVID or not.