COVID-19 natural immunity compared to vaccination

Natural Immunity Is Better Protection From COVID-19 Than Being Vaccinated

∞ Recently, a large study was undertaken by Israel’s Maccabi Healthcare Services that compared the number of breaththrough COVID-19 cases in the vaccinated in relation to those who were unvaccinated but had natural immunity.  Israel has a large group of vaccinated citizens and they were finding that of the nearly 700 daily Israelis hospitalized for COVID-19, that the vaccinated group made up the majority of individuals testing positive each day. Although the vaccine did lower the overall numbers, there were some obvious questions. Why was the vaccine neglecting to prevent either reinfection or transmission in so many cases? Why were so many vaccinated people sick enough to end up in the hospital? Perhaps the new variant was immune to the vaccine, or perhaps the vaccine was waning quickly?  How did those with natural immunity fare when they got the  virus again compared with those who were vaccinated. Did natural immunity perhaps protect differently than the vaccines? They did not answer all these questions, but they did find that the vaccines are effective at preventing serious illness, but significantly less effective than the naturally-produced antibodies that come from the actual infection.

Long-term Vaccination Protection Compared to Natural Immunity

Prior to this study we had no evidence-based data on long-term protection from SARS-CoV-2 vaccinations or those with immunity from a prior infection. This has created vastly different approaches to how vaccines are allocated and they are often given to those who have previously been infected as well as giving them to people as booster shots even though there is no good science on either of these activities. We just don’t have the scientific data to make an educated decision as to if either of these activities are useful. So, I was excited to see what this study had brought to light.

Israel’s Maccabi Healthcare Services had originally expected the unvaccinated individuals would be the largest number of people admitted to the hospital for COVID-19. They did not expect the number of vaccinated people admitted to the hospitals to rise to such a large number. They thought the vaccines would protect the vaccinated from serious illness.   Were the current vaccines less protective against the new variants?  Were the vaccines only protective for a short while? Did people need boosters? They started to tell people they needed boosters, but there was no evidence to prove the booster, especially of the same shot they had already received, would be helpful with the Delta variant.

Israel’s Maccabi Healthcare Services also realized there was a large group of naturally immune people who were being ignored by most of the world. This is the group of people who had immunity due to past natural infection. How does this group play in this whole scenario? How does their immunity compare to the immunity of the vaccinated population? This is the central theme of this study.

Israel’s Maccabi Healthcare Services decided to study how people were faring who had the virus in the past. Were they better able to resist break-through infections and better able to resist the current Delta virus everyone was now dealing with?

What Took Place In the Study

Maccabi Healthcare Services (MSH) studied a large swath of it’s members. They had a group of those who were fully vaccinated, those who were unvaccinated that had been infected with SARS-CoV-2 and a group who had been previously infected and had also received a single-dose of vaccine.

They studied 673,676 fully vaccinated individuals, and 62,883 members who were unvaccinated that had been previously infected and 42,099 individuals were previously infected who also had a single-dose of vaccine after infection. They were 16 years and older.

This is a huge study and the largest real-world observational study that examines natural immunity from the SARS-CoV-2 infection compared to vaccine-induced immunity from the BioNTech/Pfizer mRNA BNT162b2 vaccine.

 

MSH set up various models to compare with each other.

  • Model 1 – previously infected vs. vaccinated individuals, with matching for time of first event
  • Model 2 –previously infected vs. vaccinated individuals, without matching for time of first event
  • Model 3 - previously infected vs. vaccinated and previously infected individuals

 

What The Study Found

Model 1 

Those individuals who had been fully vaccinated with the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine had a 13.06-fold increased risk for breakthrough infection with the Delta variant compared to those previously infected with the virus, when the first event (infection or vaccination) occurred during January and February of 2021. The increased risk was significant for a symptomatic disease as well.

Model 2

When they looked at a broader range of time from March 2020 to February 2021 when there were different variants in Israel that were dominant) compared to vaccination only in January and February  of 2021, it suggested possible waning natural immunity to the new Delta variant. Still those who were vaccinated when compared to those with natural immunity showed a 5.96-fold increase in breakthrough infection and a 7.13-fold increase risk for symptomatic disease. The vaccinated population was also at increased risk for COVID-19 hospitalization compared to those who were previously infected.

Model 3 

In model 3, 14,029 individuals previously infected were matched  with the same number of people who were previously infected but had also received a vaccine. In this group symptomatic disease was present in 16 single dose vaccinees and in 23 of their unvaccinated counterparts. One COVID-19-related hospitalization occurred in the unvaccinated previously infected group. No COVID-19-related mortality was recorded. The group of infected and vaccinated people were protected from reinfection at a rate of 0.53 fold more than those without the one vaccine.

They conducted a further sub-analysis, where the single-dose vaccine was administered after the positive RT-PCR test. This subset represented 81% of the previously-infected-and-vaccinated study group. When performing this analysis, they found a similar, though not significant, trend of decreased risk of reinfection.

Peer Review

There are those who are claiming this data should not be paid attention to as it has not yet been peer reviewed. However, I read a lot of non-peer reviewed articles as I like to know what is knew in certain areas of medicine. I don’t always want to wait for it to be peer reviewed. I look at who is paying for the study, who is to gain and what is to gain and then look at the details to see if it is a good study. You can often tell if the researchers are simply trying to prove a point to make money for a company or push an agenda for a group or government that is wanting power and control. This study seems to be trying to provide good health care to the citizens of Israel and is paid for by the Israel government. The Israel government has been trying to immunize all it's citizens and quickly. This study shows they may not be getting the results they want via their current actions. They may need to better  individualize their actions and examine if the current vaccine is really useful for the new variants. If not, a booster is not going to be much help. I am really grateful to see a study addressing the natural immunity to COVID-19 and to see such a massive study.

Future Vaccines

Researchers would like the vaccines to be similar to natural immunity. It has been found that the natural immunity has antibody producing cells that evolve through a process where the antibodies are able to more tightly bind their target. In COVID-19 the antibodies were found to mature into more capable immune cells recognizing additional variants of COVID-19 that they did not recognize earlier on.

Researchers are trying to identify other factors that could make existing vaccines mimick how natural immunity caused by infection, can sometimes offer broad protection. For instance, they have found that some people who recover from COVID-19 make antibodies that, over time, become more capable of blocking diverse coronavirus variants.

One of the ways they believe they can get this result is with adjuvants. These are usually molecules that the body sees as highly toxic that causes the body to mount an increased immune response. I don't like seeing them go this route as adjuvants work because of their toxicity.

In a Nutshell: How Natural Immunity to COVID-19 Compares To Vaccinated Status And Importance

My take-home here is that those who are infected with SARS-CoV-2 have a natural immunity that appears from this large study in Israel, to  make them much more immune to the virus than if they are vaccinated.  The initial difference is quite large at 13 fold. Then over time and with the new variants appearing the difference changes to almost 6 fold. This is still  significant.  This is good reason for people to be screened for  antibodies. In my opinion, this shows those who have natural immunity don’t need to be vaccinated. It does appears someone with natural immunity can increase their immunity by 0.53 fold when mixed with vaccination. However, when you have between 6-13 fold more protection from being infected than the vaccinated, an extra 0.53 might not be so inviting to people who know the vaccine has some serious possible side effects. The idea of indiscriminately giving everyone a vaccine and even forcing  people to get vaccinated does not seem scientifically based according to this data. You could also say that it is selfish to give a vaccine to those who already have better immunity from a prior infection than can be obtained from a vaccination. There are many people on the planet who want a vaccination that can't receive one.  However, in the USA our government is currently not paying attention to those with natural immunity and they are wasting vaccines on them. Some of these being mandated to get vaccines don’t want the vaccine. This is another serious issue. Do we as a society want to take the most personal liberty one has away from them? Do we want to force our family, friends and neighbors to inject a foreign material into their body. When did this become okay? When did we lose choice of our personal health care?  No matter if you are a person who wants or does not want the vaccine being mandated by the government, we have to at least agree that giving a vaccine carte blanche to all those who were infected and likely have  greater immunity than the vaccine can confer, is indeed wasteful. Certainly it is good for the pocketbook of the companies selling the vaccines and those who are heavily invested in these companies though. In my opinion, testing for antibodies should be provided prior to giving anyone a vaccine. There are many people who may have natural immunity from an infection they did not even noticed they had.  The vaccines do not come without risk. Why risk side effects in those with prior immunity? If someone has good immunity, why would they need vaccination and in some cases be forced to take one to keep a job, fly or enter a local business? Does it make any sense to tell those with greater immunity from natural antibodies that they are not allowed to do things that those with lesser immunity from vaccines are allowed to do? None of this makes sense to me. It appears these decisions are made from an emotional basis of fear as they are not based on science. Science would say that those who have greater immunity than a vaccine would provide, do not need the vaccines. Science would say giving a booster of the same old vaccine created for the original SARS-CoV-2 may not be working for the new variants, yet the same vaccines are being given repetatively. How many times do you need to keep hammering on a screw until you realize you need a screwdriver?

I had a reader email me as she was concerned I was telling people they should not get vaccinated. I actually do not tell people what they should or should not do regarding the SARS-CoV-2 vaccines. I think each person's situation is unique and each person should examine their options with their practitioner.  What I am saying immediately above is that people should have choice as to if they inject something into their body or not. I am also saying we should look at antibodies to see if someone needs a shot or not. We know how to do it and it is easy to do.

 

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