Why natural immunity to COVID-19 is not as good as vaccination, according to doctors – Community News
Covid-19

Why natural immunity to COVID-19 is not as good as vaccination, according to doctors

The US has surpassed 46 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, and natural immunity to a previous infection may not be enough to rely on when considering the ultimate goal of reducing hospitalization and death from transmission — especially if it’s about reducing the threat to the most vulnerable among us.

“The problem with natural immunity is that A) it’s not as good as vaccination and B) it wears off over time and people get reinfected if you don’t follow that up with a vaccination,” Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Virginia Dr. . Taison Bell said on Yahoo Finance Live (video above).

Other medical experts have said the same.

“This idea of ​​really building our population-level immunoprotection based on natural infection is super dangerous in the first place,” Dr. Keri Althoff, associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, to Yahoo Finance. “It’s very difficult. We have risk factors for people that put them at a higher risk of serious illness and death, but we’ve let young, healthy people die from this COVID. We don’t want this virus to just go wild and people take their lives.” losses.”

It is estimated that 757,000 Americans have died from COVID-19.

Natural immunity ‘should count too’

Many Americans who refuse vaccination against COVID-19 argue that their natural immunity to previous infection should be enough to protect them and others rather than a vaccine.

In addition, the argument goes, populations will eventually reach a point of strong immunity against hospitalization and death from COVID-19 through a combination of vaccination and natural immunity — a concept known as endemicity.

Preventive medicine specialist Dr. David Katz told Yahoo Finance Live that immunity to natural COVID-19 infection “should also count. Those vaccinations should be freed up for others who need them more, be it boosters or distributions around the world.”

And the Pennsylvania-based St. Luke’s University Health Network announced in September that it would allow such individuals who work for them to receive the COVID-19 vaccine for up to 12 months after their infection.

This comes after a study conducted in Israel found that natural immunity provided stronger and longer-lasting protection against the Delta strain of coronavirus than those who were uninfected but fully vaccinated.

However, according to Dr. Bell, “the nature of the virus is to come in cycles and waves. And over time, when a new wave comes, when that natural immunity has dropped, you’ve got a population that’s still not protected again. So I’m afraid that’s what we’re going to see.”

dr. Howie Forman, a professor of radiology and public health at Yale University, told Yahoo Finance there are “important” caveats to natural immunity.

“Logistically, allowing individuals to replace previous infection with vaccination requires documentation of previous infection and (less certain) current antibody status,” Forman said. “And then make a decision about durability — that is, how long can someone be considered to have immunity.”

‘Not good logic’ to get infected instead of vaccinating

A study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that previous COVID-19 infection does not guarantee an antibody response, meaning those hoping that natural immunity will provide them with an alternative to the COVID-19 vaccine may will not be successful.

“It’s another study that says a certain percentage of the population doesn’t develop antibodies, at least measurable antibodies after infection,” Forman said. “It’s starting to help us understand which groups are less likely to develop antibodies.”

According to the study, “not all individuals recovering from severe acute respiratory syndrome infection with coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) develop SARS-CoV-2 specific antibodies. We show that non-seroconversion is associated with younger age and higher reverse transcription PCR cycle thresholds and identify SARS-CoV-2 viral loads in the nasopharynx as an important correlate of the systemic antibody response.”

(Non-seroconversion means that the infected person’s immune system was unable to develop antibodies despite exposure.)

In other words, younger people seem to be less likely to develop antibodies and the development of antibodies largely depends on their viral load, ie the severity of their infection. The higher the viral load, the greater the chance that someone has developed antibodies.

Mary Lubrano, a nurse from Chalmette, Louisiana, will be treated for COVID-19 on August 10, 2021 at Ochsner Medical Center in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana.  REUTERS/Kathleen Flynn

Mary Lubrano, a nurse from Chalmette, Louisiana, will be treated for COVID-19 on August 10, 2021 at Ochsner Medical Center in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. REUTERS/Kathleen Flynn

Consequently, the CDC report warned against thinking that natural immunity is definitively more effective than vaccination: “RT-PCR positive individuals who have experienced COVID-19 symptoms may be less likely to be vaccinated, assuming they are protected.” but our results warn against this assumption.”

Nevertheless, there are clearly some individuals who would rather gain natural immunity by being deliberately infected than receive the vaccine. For example, a group of individuals in Canada held a “COVID party” with the intention of making antibodies after being exposed to the virus. Some of them ended up in hospital as a result.

“There’s no good logic that says you should get infected instead of vaccinated,” Forman said. “At least up to age 12, the evidence is compelling that vaccination is safer than infection, so no one should want to get infected rather than get vaccinated. That’s just stupid to do. It would be like if you could imagine a healed bone after a fracture turning out to be as strong as a bone that wasn’t broken or something like saying if I break my bone, I’ll have strong bones again. There is no logic to avoid it. All it does is introduce higher risks to you.”

All things considered, vaccines are the way to go

There is still much to learn about the coronavirus and its long-term effects, including how long antibodies created after infection remain in a person’s system and why some develop them and others don’t.

The CDC report indicating a varied natural immune response “doesn’t answer the question of whether people without measurable antibodies but documented previous infections can still have protection,” Forman said. “It doesn’t answer that because it wasn’t supposed to answer that question. But it’s starting to raise serious questions about who doesn’t have immunity after infection.”

And while it’s not clear how many vaccinated individuals previously had COVID-19 infection, research suggests those people with “hybrid immunity” from both natural immunity and inoculation could have the strongest antibody response of all.

In any case, the crucial factor is vaccination — and at some point booster shots — regardless of whether or not a previous infection has occurred.

Vaccines are “the way to go,” emphasizes Althoff, the epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins. “We have good data to show that people are responding and responding well, and that antibody response lingers there for quite a few months. The whole discussion about boosters is now coming into play because that antibody response is starting to wane in some – and that’s especially risky when we see strong evidence that it’s declining… [in] older people or those kinds of people at higher risk.”

Adriana Belmonte is a reporter and editor on politics and health care policy for Yahoo Finance. You can follow her on Twitter @adrianambells and reach her at [email protected]

Read the latest financial and business news from Yahoo Finance

Follow Yahoo Finance on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, facebook, flip board, and LinkedIn