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How does the vaccine affect testing for COVID-19 infection?

It depends on the type of test. Most people receive a PCR test to check for a current COVID-19 infection. A PCR test will not be affected by receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, because the PCR test looks for coronavirus currently in the body, and the vaccines do not contain coronavirus.

However, an antibody test, which shows if you had COVID-19 in the past, will be affected by the vaccine. Both the virus and the vaccine prompt your immune system to produce antibodies, and antibody or serology tests look for antibodies in your blood. The antibodies the body makes in response to COVID-19 infection differ from those made in response to the vaccine. The vaccine teaches the body to make antibodies against the spike protein, which surrounds the virus's outer shell. A COVID-19 infection, on the other hand, not only produces spike protein antibodies but antibodies that bind to other components of the virus, such as the nucleocapsid protein.

Finally, please note that full protection is not conferred the day after receiving your vaccine. No vaccine is 100% effective, and the current vaccines available do not reach their full strength until 14 days after the final dose of the vaccine. Please follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidance for fully vaccinated people.

Updated 6 April 2021

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