Should People With ‘Natural Immunity’ After COVID Skip Vaccine? – Community News
Covid-19

Should People With ‘Natural Immunity’ After COVID Skip Vaccine?

A bill is on the agenda for the Utah legislature’s special session beginning Tuesday.

“I think the key is that we try to find that balance between personal freedoms and public health and the reach of government. And it’s not easy,” said Senate Majority Assistant Whip Kirk Cullimore, R-Draper, the sponsor of SB2004, which is expanding waivers for workplace COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

The bill goes beyond the waivers allowed under new federal rules for President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for major companies across the country, which were suspended on Saturday pending a review by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upon request. from five states, including Utah, and several private companies.

In addition to medical and religious waivers, the bill would allow a current or prospective employee to state in a statement that vaccination against COVID-19 would “contrade a genuine personal belief” that apparently would not need to be specified.

“People need to take a degree of personal responsibility in doing their part for public health, and I don’t think it’s inappropriate for companies to do their part as well. But I think there should be that wiggle room in the law that allows for people who have legitimate reasons to be exempt,” Cullimore said.

Those reasons include that he’d had COVID-19 before, he said, although what’s known as “natural immunity” isn’t specified in the bill. The U.S. Department of Labor rules “do not provide exceptions to vaccination requirements based on ‘natural immunity’ or the presence of antibodies from a previous infection.”

Senate Speaker Stuart Adams, R-Layton, who told reporters last week he wanted to see an exemption for Utahns who’ve had the coronavirus, said the data he’s seen suggested they may be better protected from COVID-19 than someone who’s completely has been vaccinated, meaning it has been two weeks or more since their first doses.

“Why are they discriminated against?” Adams asked, as there have been more than 32,000 “breakthrough” cases of the virus among fully vaccinated Utahns. He said he supports vaccinations, including for those who have already had COVID-19, but they should not be treated differently if they are not getting the injections.

“I try to protect lives and livelihoods. I try to keep people working and protect people. If having COVID allows people to be safe, we should definitely keep them working,” the Senate president said, adding that the issue is “not political. It uses data to make decisions to keep people employed.”

Cullimore said the conflicts between the bill and federal rules could be dealt with later, depending on the outcome of the lawsuit. Regardless of what happens to the federal mandate, he said the legislation is needed because some Utah companies are already voluntarily imposing vaccine requirements.

What Experts Say About ‘Natural Immunity’

Doctors and public health experts say that even someone who has had COVID-19 should be vaccinated against the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend vaccination against the virus for all eligible individuals, including those previously infected.

“The data is now clear,” said Dr. Emily Spivak, an infectious disease physician at the University of Utah Health, citing recent CDC data from 187 U.S. hospitals showing that people who had COVID-19 three to six months ago , have a five times higher risk of being reinfected than those who received the injections.

A previous study from Israel found that unvaccinated people previously infected with COVID-19 had greater immunity to the highly contagious delta variant of the virus than those fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine — and also that vaccines improve the protection offered by having already been ill.

In a report released in late October that analyzed these and other studies, the CDC said both people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and those who have previously had the virus have a low risk of recurrence of infection for at least ten years. at least six months.

But, the CDC report said, vaccines typically provide a more consistent and stronger antibody response.

“The take-home is that if you’ve had COVID-19, depending on how long ago it’s been, you may be protected. But we honestly can’t tell you,” Spivak said. “There’s no question that getting a vaccine after you’ve had COVID-19 will really protect you almost 100% from being hospitalized with COVID-19.”

dr. Brandon Webb, an infectious disease physician at Intermountain Healthcare, said what is known about natural immunity to COVID-19 is “still evolving,” making it a difficult public health policy to communicate and implement.

“The concept of recognizing natural immunity is scientifically reasonable, but it has some very important practical limitations,” Webb said, including what he called “a common misconception that if natural immunity is valid, preventive measures such as social restrictions, masks and vaccines that are not. required.”

The reality, he said, is “just letting the infection go unchecked would be catastrophic in terms of lives lost, overwhelming health care resources and economic impact.” In addition, natural immunity can vary, decline over time and be difficult to verify accurately with the tests currently available.

There is also “concern that embracing natural immunity will undermine vaccination efforts,” Webb said, adding that he thinks “it is likely that the one-sided messages about vaccination without acknowledging what we are doing and not yet knowing about the benefits of natural immunity, the vaccine has probably improved hesitation rather than addressing that.”

Spivak said there is “evidence that getting vaccinated after COVID-19 is much more protective against reinfection than natural immunity. Natural immunity can be varied,” while vaccine immunity “is highly predictable and tends to be sort of a standard for groups, ages and types of patients.”

There are a few exceptions, mainly people with weakened immune systems due to leukemia, uncontrolled HIV and other medical conditions, as well as people who need immune suppressive therapy to treat diseases such as some cancers or because they have had an organ transplant.

Han Kim, a public health professor at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, warned that allowing a personal waiver of a COVID-19 vaccine requirement is “a giant loophole” that could allow anyone to opt out of the shots. California and other states have repealed similar vaccination waivers, he said.

Still, Kim said he believes “the hard-core anti-vaccine folks” are a small minority in Utah, as nearly 60% of those eligible for the injections — now everyone 5 years and older — have been fully vaccinated. He said those who oppose the vaccines are so vocal that they “dictate much of the politics”.