The debate between vaccine immunity and natural immunity has ramped up in recent weeks, specifically in regard to COVID-19. This week the World Health Organization (WHO) went to social media to make their point known.
However, the post is in direct opposition to the recent study done by the WHO that shows that natural immunity is quite robust. Even among different variants and severity of cases:
Studies aimed to detect immunological memory including the assessment of cellular immunity by testing for the presence of memory B cells, and CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, observed robust immunity at 6 months post-infection in 95% of subjects under study, which included individuals with asymptomatic, mild, moderate and severe infections.1
To conclude, available tests and current knowledge do not tell us about the duration of immunity and protection against reinfection, but recent evidence suggests that natural infection may provide similar protection against symptomatic disease as vaccination, at least for the available follow up period.1
WHO’s meme above contradicts not only it’s own study, but those of other scientists around the world as well. They aren’t alone. The CDC continues to urge people who have recovered from COVID to get vaccinated. Businesses and local governments are trying to issue mandates requiring employees to get vaccinated, with no regard to natural immunity.
Israel as a Model
In December, when the Pfizer vaccines were first available, Israel launched a large-scale, aggressive push to vaccinate their population. The 9.3 million citizens are enrolled in HMOs that provide close surveillance for the vast public health infrastructure. This tracking gives real-time data as the pandemic unfolds. Because the country contracted with and started using exclusively Pfizer vaccines, their population is one of the best to watch as a model. Several scientists agree:
“'I watch [Israeli data] very, very closely because it is some of the absolutely best data coming out anywhere in the world,’ says David O’Connor, a viral sequencing expert at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. ‘Israel is the model,’ agrees Eric Topol, a physician-scientist at Scripps Research. ‘It’s pure mRNA [messenger RNA] vaccines. It’s out there early. It’s got a very high level population [uptake]. It’s a working experimental lab for us to learn from.’”2
Natural Immunity Under Scrutiny
Many doctors and experts are weighing in on the debate. There are several studies that indicate that immunity is long-term and robust. Others say that there isn’t long term data yet. In reality, we have more data regarding natural immunity versus vaccine induced immunity. Vaccines weren’t available until at least 12 months after COVID-19 began circulating and before vaccines were available to limited populations. The science seems to want to support studies that have been less than a year old compared to robust data that is over a year old to fit the narrative.
Yet, Natural Immunity Holds Strong
Israel conducted a three-month, nation-wide study to determine the difference between natural immunity and vaccine efficacy.
This study suggests that both the BNT162b2 vaccine [Pfizer] and prior SARS-CoV-2 infection are effective against both subsequent SARS-CoV-2 infection and other COVID-19–related outcomes. Moreover, the effectiveness seems similar for both cohorts. This puts into question the need to vaccinate recent (up to six month) previously-infected individuals.3
With the news of the Delta variant sweeping the globe, natural immunity is still holding strong as vaccine efficacy wanes. Breakthrough cases are happening all over the globe, and yet we hear about the pandemic of the unvaccinated from the media. Israel gives a clearer picture once again.
With a total of 835,792 Israelis known to have recovered from the virus, the 72 instances of reinfection amount to 0.0086% of people who were already infected with COVID.
By contrast, Israelis who were vaccinated were 6.72 times more likely to get infected after the shot than after natural infection.4
This isn’t a phenomenon limited to Israel. Scientists from the U.S.’s Cleveland Clinic found similar results in their study.
The cumulative incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection remained almost zero among previously infected unvaccinated subjects… Not one of the 1359 previously infected subjects who remained unvaccinated had a SARS-CoV-2 infection over the duration of the study.5
The study goes on to conclude:
Individuals who have had SARS-CoV-2 infection are unlikely to benefit from COVID-19 vaccination.5
Vaccine Immunity Shredded
What about breakthrough cases?
Back in Israel, the medical director of Herzog Hospital in Jerusalem, Dr. Kobi Haviv, shared that on August 5, 85-90 percent of hospitalizations are fully vaccinated people. Additionally, the vaccinated make up 95 percent of the severe patients in that particular facility.6
The term “breakthrough cases” gives the perception that this is a rare event. However, as the situation in Israel and around the world develops, we see that it is much more common than we are led to believe. Bioinformatician, contracted by the Israeli government, Uri Shalit, states:
“There are so many breakthrough infections that they dominate and most of the hospitalized patients are actually vaccinated.”7
Seeing the efficacy of the vaccines waning, Israel began giving a third dose of shots. They began, once again with their oldest population, over 60 years old. Since having the booster, the Health Ministry data has reported an additional 14 Israelis infected with COVID-19. Two of those have been hospitalized.8
Back in the U.S.
Recently, in an outbreak in Barnstable, Massachusetts, 74 percent of the individuals had been fully vaccinated according to the CDC.9 This prompted the CDC to pivot on their masking suggestions, once again. After further study, the CDC also said the viral load of the vaccinated was just as high as the unvaccinated. The vaccinated are also able to transmit the virus.10
According to an internal document from the CDC:
"Therefore, more breakthrough and more community spread despite vaccination."11