Why is COVID Natural Immunity Being Ignored?
Immunity, according to the CDC website, is “Protection from an infectious disease. If you are immune to a disease, you can be exposed to it without being infected.” They explain that “Immunity to a disease is achieved through the presence of antibodies to that disease in a person’s system.” These antibodies are “disease specific.”
There are two types of immunity, active and passive. “Active immunity results when exposure to a disease organism triggers the immune system to produce antibodies to that disease.” This occurs “through infection with the actual disease, resulting in natural immunity, or introduction of a killed or weakened form of the disease organism through vaccination.”
COVID has added a twist to the vaccine concept by using messenger RNA rather than an attenuated virus to create immunity. This is a new approach to “vaccination” and if validated as safe and effective, opens the door to disease prevention on a previously unimaginable scale. But with all new technologies, like self-driving cars, the proof is in the pudding.
In addition, breakthrough infections, on the rise, challenge the definition of immunity as “being exposed without being infected.” This would explain the CDC’s recent decision to change the definition of vaccine from immunity to only protection.
These immunology basics are taught in high school biology classes and if understandable to teenagers, they should be clear to the medical establishment and leaders of our national health institutions.
Yet Dr. Anthony Fauci appears to struggle with these basic concepts, as he had difficulty discussing natural immunity in a recent interview with CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
I must add the standard and unfortunately necessary disclaimer that I am not anti-vaccine, having been personally vaccinated before Christmas of last year. Nor am I offering medical advice. Instead, I’ll emphasize that the current vaccines reduce the risk of severe COVID illness – hospitalization and death – and for those at highest risk, make good sense, in conjunction with consultation with one’s own physician. Sorry, but this is a necessary paragraph these days.
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Back to Dr. Fauci who was finally asked by Dr. Gupta about natural immunity. Here is the exchange.
GUPTA: And just real quickly, there was a study that came out of Israel about natural immunity, and basically, the headline was that natural immunity provides a lot of protection, even better than the vaccines alone.
What do people make of that? So as we talk about vaccine mandates, I get calls all the time, people say, I've already had COVID, I'm protected. And now the study says maybe even more protected than the vaccine alone. Should they also get the vaccine? How do you make the case to them?
FAUCI: You know, that's a really good point, Sanjay. I don't have a really firm answer for you on that. That's something that we're going to have to discuss regarding the durability of the response.
The one thing that paper from Israel didn't tell you is whether or not as high as the protection is with natural infection, what's the durability compared to the durability of a vaccine? So it is conceivable that you got infected, you're protected, but you may not be protected for an indefinite period of time.
The Israel study mentioned above found that “fully vaccinated” individuals are 27 times more likely to become COVID-infected and symptomatic, and seven times more likely to be hospitalized compared to those unvaccinated but with natural immunity. These results suggest that natural immunity is far more robust than vaccine immunity, which was what Dr. Gupta was asking Dr. Fauci about. I wonder if Dr. Gupta will be reported to his state medical board for asking such a question?
A July report by Israel’s Health Ministry described recent COVID cases. Fewer than one percent were among individuals previously infected and recovered, while 40 percent involved those who were vaccinated, contradicting the media-driven “pandemic of the unvaccinated” narrative.
Dr. Fauci acknowledged that this was “a really good point” but had no firm answer to explain it. If Dr. Fauci was told that seat belts reduce the risk of death from car crashes by 45 percent, would he brush it off the same way saying there is no firm answer to explain it?
Dr. Fauci then went on to question the durability of protection from natural versus vaccine immunity. While no one can predict the future with absolute certainty, we do have a good idea of durability.
Dr. Fauci’s employer, the NIH, announced in January 2021, “The immune systems of more than 95% of people who recovered from COVID-19 had durable memories of the virus up to eight months after infection.” At that time, COVID had been prominently on the scene since March 2020, 10 months previously. Allowing time for the NIH to gather data and report it, in essence, they are saying that thus far, immunity in the infected has not waned.
Another study, published in the prestigious journal Nature, demonstrated that T-cell immunity in patients recovering from 2003 SARS (similar to our current SARS-CoV-2 infection) was still robust 17 years post-infection. This study was performed 17 years after the 2003 SARS outbreak meaning that immunity showed no signs of waning to date and could potentially last a lifetime.
While antibodies may fade “below the limit of detection within 2 to 3 years”, as this scientific paper suggests, T-cell immunity likely lasts far longer. Interestingly this immunity from 2003, according to the paper, displayed “robust cross-reactivity to the N protein of SARS-CoV-2”, our current scourge. Why is this important?
There are six coronaviruses known to infect humans, four causing a common cold and two causing severe pneumonia and “all of these coronaviruses trigger antibody and T cell responses in infected individuals.” This could explain why some individuals infected today had mild or no symptoms, based on immunity from previous similar infections in the past.
The FDA also acknowledges the waning durability of the Pfizer vaccine in a report this week evaluating a booster dose, saying several times in the executive summary, “confirming the waning of vaccine effectiveness over time.”
Is Dr. Fauci not aware of this research and the likelihood of natural immunity with potentially extremely long durability? Compare this to vaccine immunity durability, which Dr. Fauci hints may be more durable than natural immunity despite the FDA saying clearly, “Vaccine protection against COVID-19 infection wanes approximately 6 to 8 months following the second dose.”
A Yale infectious disease specialist had a good answer, “We can only say that a vaccine is protective as long as we are measuring it” which is now only about eight months. Yale Medicine went on to say that “studies from the CDC suggested vaccine protection against infection is waning.”
Common sense suggests that booster injections would not be necessary unless vaccine protection is dropping. Dr. Fauci acknowledged this in his shift from every eight to every five months COVID booster shot recommendations. Simply put, why would he recommend booster shots if the vaccines provided long-acting immunity?
We have good evidence that natural immunity is long-lasting, decades or more, and that vaccine immunity is short-lived, months at best, hence the talk of booster shots before the vaccine has even been in use for a year.
Where is the thoughtful research and analysis from the medical establishment on natural immunity? Could current vaccines be engendering mutations and variants through immune escape as this paper suggests?
Vaccines target only the spike protein, which can mutate, unlike natural immunity which targets dozens of viral proteins, making mutation or resistance far less likely. In addition, natural infection provides “mucosal immunity,” according to this microbiology paper published last month, providing a first line of defense in our airways, something that vaccine immunity does not offer.
As we enter Fall with unpopular vaccine mandates and passports, dividing society in a new form of apartheid, why are basic immunology concepts like natural immunity being tossed aside?
Not by everyone though. Spectrum Health in Michigan is granting temporary exemptions from employee vaccine mandates for those who can demonstrate natural immunity to COVID.
A recent blood bank study published in JAMA found that 83 percent of Americans have COVID antibodies, either natural or vaccine-induced. We should be celebrating rather than continuing to wring our hands in fear.
Leave it to the Brits, in a British Medical Journal article, to ask the question not asked here in the US, “Vaccinating people who have had covid-19: why doesn’t natural immunity count in the US?” Why indeed?
Brian C. Joondeph is a physician and writer. He is on sabbatical from social media.
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