Covid immunity through infection or vaccination: are they equal?

Dr. Aaron Khairati, professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Irvine, felt he did not need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 because he fell ill in July 2020.

So, in August, he sued to stop the mandate of vaccination in the university system, saying that “natural” immunity gave him and millions of people better protection than any vaccine.

A judge last week rejected Kheriti’s request for an injunction against the university over its mandate, which went into effect on September 3. While Kheriti intends to pursue the case, legal experts doubt that the lawsuits he has brought and represented across the country will eventually succeed.

Having said that, evidence is mounting that infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, is generally as effective as vaccination in stimulating your immune system to prevent disease. However, federal officials have been reluctant to admit any parity, pointing to the wide variation in Covid patients’ immune responses to infection.

Like many disputes during the Covid pandemic, the uncertain value of a past infection has led to lawsuits, Marketing Offers and political greatness, even when scholars are quietly working in the background to sort out the facts.

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For decades, doctors have used blood tests to determine whether people are protected from infectious diseases. Pregnant women are tested for rubella antibodies to help ensure that fetuses do not become infected with the rubella virus, which causes devastating birth defects. Hospital staff are screened for antibodies to measles and chickenpox to prevent the spread of these diseases. But it seems that it is more difficult to distinguish immunity to Covid than to identify immunity to these diseases.

We do not yet have a complete understanding of what the presence of antibodies tells us about immunity.

The Food and Drug Administration has authorized the use of Covid antibody tests, which can cost about $70, to detect past infections. Some tests can distinguish whether the antibodies came from infections or vaccines. But neither the FDA nor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using the tests to assess whether you are, in fact, immune to Covid. Therefore, the tests are essentially useless, because there is no agreement on quantity or Types of antibodies It would indicate protection from disease.

“We don’t yet have a full understanding of what the presence of antibodies tells us about immunity,” said Kelly Wroblosky, director of infectious diseases for the Association of Public Health Laboratories.

Along the same lines, experts disagree about how much protection an infection provides.

How does natural immunity compare to vaccination?

In the absence of certainty and with vaccination mandates imposed across the country, lawsuits are seeking to put pressure on the issue. People who claim that vaccination mandates infringe their civil liberties argue that acquired immunity to infection protects them. In Los Angeles, six police officers sued the city, claiming they had natural immunity. In August, law professor Todd Zewicki alleged that George Mason University’s vaccination mandate violated his constitutional rights, given that he has natural immunity. He cited a number of antibody tests and an immunologist’s medical opinion as “medically unnecessary” for his vaccination. Zywicki dropped the lawsuit after the university granted him a medical exemption, which it claims has nothing to do with the lawsuit.

Republican lawmakers joined the crusade. The Republican Party Doctors Gathering, the author of congressional Republican physicians, urged people apprehensive about vaccination to instead seek antibody tests, contravening recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). in Kentucky, Senate passed A decision conferring equal immunity status to those who show evidence of vaccination or positive antibody tests.

Hospitals were among the first to impose vaccinations on frontline workers because of the risk that the disease could be passed on to at-risk patients. Few offered exemptions to those injured in the past. But there are exceptions.

Two systems at a Pennsylvania hospital allow clinical staff to delay vaccination for a year after they test positive for Covid. Another, in Michigan, allows employees to opt out of vaccination if they provide evidence of infection and positive antibody tests in the previous three months. In those cases, the regulations indicated that they were careful to avoid staffing shortages that might result from nurses’ departure from vaccinations.

Everyone is just waiting for Fauci to say, “Previous infection provides protection.”

For Khariati, the question is simple. “Research into natural immunity is now completely definitive,” he told KHN. “It’s better than the immunity conferred by vaccines.” But it is clear that such hard data is not shared by most of the scientific community.

Dr. Arthur Reingold, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Berkeley, and Shane Crotty, a virologist at the La Jolla Institute of Immunology in San Diego, Testimony of an expert In Kheriaty’s suit, which says the extent of immunity to reinfection, especially against newer variants of Covid, is unknown. Note that Vaccination gives a huge boost in immunity For people who have been sick before.

distance Not everyone pays To recognize past infections are the vaccination critics or torchbearers in the anti-vaccine movement.

Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, Clinical Professor of Population and Public Health at the University of Southern California, co-authored an analysis Posted last week which have shown that infection generally protects for 10 months or longer. “From a public health perspective, depriving people who have recovered from infection of jobs, travel and travel makes no sense,” he said.

In his testimony against Khairati’s case for “natural” immunity, Kruti cited studies of the massive Covid outbreak that swept Manaus, Brazil, early this year, and which included a gamma variant of the virus. one of the studies It was estimated, based on blood donation tests, that three-quarters of the city’s population had already been infected before Gamma arrived. This indicates that previous infections may not protect against new variants. But Klausner and others It is suspected that the rate of previous infections presented in the study was significantly exaggerated.

Great study in August From IsraelIt may help turn the tide toward acceptance of previous infections, said Klausner, who has shown better protection from infection than vaccination. “Everyone is waiting for Fauci to say, ‘Previous infection provides protection,'” he said.

When Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief federal expert on infectious diseases, was He was asked in an interview with CNN In the past month, whether or not infected people are as well protected as those who have been vaccinated. He said “there can be an argument” that they are. Fauci did not immediately respond to KHN’s request for further comment.

CDC spokeswoman Kristin Nordlund said in an email that “current evidence” shows significant variation in antibody responses after infection with the Covid virus. “We hope to have some additional information about how protective vaccine immunity is compared to natural immunity in the coming weeks,” she said.

Dr. Robert Ceder, chair of the division of cellular immunity at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said a “tremendous effort” is being made to determine the level of protective antibodies. accident Studies have stab in number.

Dr. George Seiber, a vaccine industry consultant and co-author of one of the papers, said antibody tests will never provide a yes or no answer about Covid protection. “But there are people who will not be vaccinated,” he said. “Trying to predict who is at low risk is a worthy task.”

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