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Raging Debate: Is Immunity From a Covid-19 Infection Stronger Than Immunity Via Vaccination?

Evidence grows that infections provide as much protection as vaccines. So what choice do you make?
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Role of Immunity

Vaccination vs Natural Immunity Debate 

A WSJ article addresses the question Which Carries the Stronger Immunity, Covid-19 Vaccines or Infections? Note: That is a not paywalled link. 

Evidence is building that immunity from Covid-19 infection is at least as strong as that from vaccination. Scientists are divided on the implications for vaccine policy.

Vaccines typically give rise to a stronger antibody response than infection, which might make them better at fending off the virus in the short term. Infection triggers a response that evolves over time, possibly making it more robust in the long term. A combination of both types appears to be stronger than either alone. But the jury is out on whether one form is stronger than the other, and whether their relative strength even matters for vaccine policy.

One thing is clear: Vaccination is a far safer, more reliable strategy for acquiring immunity, given the risks of serious illness or death from infection. But viewpoints splinter about whether people who have had Covid-19 before need a full course of vaccination, and whether documented prior infection should count as proof of immunity—as is the case in some other countries, including much of Europe.

A recent Israeli study found that people who had been vaccinated with two shots of the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE —the most commonly used there—were 13 times more likely to later get infected than those with a prior infection. The study, which hasn’t been peer reviewed, tracked confirmed infections between June and August this year for people who had been either vaccinated or infected in January or February.

Some studies suggest the opposite. One, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that, among people hospitalized with a respiratory illness, Covid-19 was over five times more common among those who were unvaccinated and had an earlier infection compared with those who were fully inoculated and hadn’t had the virus before. Critics say the study, which hasn’t been peer reviewed, had flaws that likely overestimated the relative strength of vaccination.

The two forms of immunity appear to have different strengths. Vaccination with mRNA vaccines produced higher concentrations of neutralizing antibodies—the type that prevent the virus from entering cells—than infection, although levels waned in both groups, according to a recent paper published in the journal Nature by researchers at the Rockefeller University in New York.

So-called hybrid immunity—that in people who have had both vaccination and infection—has been shown to be strongest of all. The Rockefeller researchers found that vaccination boosted levels of antibodies in the blood and memory B cells in people who had been infected before. The effect also appears to work in the other direction: A study of vaccinated people who were infected during a July 4 holiday weekend outbreak in Cape Cod found that they produced high levels of antibodies and T-cells directed against the virus. That study, led by researchers at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, hasn’t been peer reviewed.

Some doctors say the mounting evidence on the role of immunity from infection supports a more nuanced approach to vaccine policy.

Among them is UCSF’s Dr. Gandhi, who supports a single dose of vaccine in people who have had the virus. She also thinks prior infection should carry weight when it comes to vaccine mandates. “Mandating [vaccination] so that someone [unvaccinated] loses their job if they have a proven prior infection is going too far,” she said.

Marty Makary, a professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, also advocates a case-by-case approach to vaccination in people who have already had Covid-19, especially among children. “There’s no scientific basis for vaccinating people who had the infection,” he said. “It’s not clear to me that the benefits of vaccination in someone who has circulating antibodies outweighs the risk.”

“The risk of vaccination is extraordinarily low,” said Tom Frieden, former director of the CDC and chief executive of Resolve to Save Lives, a nonprofit initiative that works on strengthening epidemic preparedness. “The benefit is high and the uncertainty with infection makes it so that you can’t make that a replacement to vaccination.”

Supporting Evidence For Every Position

The article contains enough studies and opinions to suit whatever you want to believe. 

I am more prone to believe Israeli and Rockefeller studies than studies by the CDC.

Indeed, the conflicting and changing stories coupled with outright purposeful lies by Dr. Anthony Fauci explain why many do not trust Fauci, the World Health Organization, or the CDC.

Certainly the vaccinations have proven to have fewer complications and lower death rates than being unvaccinated. 

And even if one survives Covid, there appears to be additional benefit to vaccinations. 

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Does Omicron Change the Debate?

Actually, we simply do not have enough information to know. 

Here's a debate proposal of another kind.

A friend of mine asked me to promote a debate between Dr. Fauci and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

The proposed format is a 60-90 minute debate on COVID lockdowns, masks, vaccines and treatments. 

That's the challenge if either happens to read this post.

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