One topic the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been reticent to address is natural immunity for those who have recovered from the coronavirus.
Of course for messaging purposes, it’s easier to simply say: “Everyone get vaccinated.”
Further, government bureaucrats tend to be risk-averse by nature.
That’s why it is interesting that on Monday when the CDC raised its travel advisory for Israel to its highest level due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, according to Axios, there was a nod to natural immunity.
“If you recovered from a documented COVID-19 infection within the last 3 months, follow all requirements and recommendations for fully vaccinated travelers except you do NOT need to get a test 3-5 days after travel unless you are symptomatic. People can continue to test positive for up to 3 months after diagnosis and not be infectious to others,” the advisory reads.
The CDC also instructs, “All air passengers coming to the United States, including U.S. citizens and fully vaccinated people, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result no more than 3 days before travel or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 3 months before they board a flight to the United States.”
So three months is the time window the CDC is ready to accept concerning the efficacy of natural immunity for travel purposes anyway.
In addition to the agency’s advisory, Israel itself apparently recognizes natural immunity as being equivalent to being fully vaccinated.
Reuters reported last month that the country was reinstituting its coronavirus “Green Pass.”
The policy allows only “the vaccinated, recovered [from COVID] and those with a negative test result who are aged 12 and over” to attend events involving 100 or more people.
The Israeli Health Ministry released data last month showing that in its most recent wave of cases — beginning in May — less than 1 percent were among those who had previously recovered from COVID.
“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,” Israel National News reported.
Meanwhile, roughly 40 percent of the new cases were among those who were vaccinated.
“Israelis who were vaccinated were 6.72 times more likely to get infected after the shot than after natural infection, with over 3,000 of the 5,193,499, or 0.0578%, of Israelis who were vaccinated getting infected in the latest wave,” according to Israel National News.
One takeaway is the infection rates for both the COVID-recovered and the vaccinated were low.
Cases have continued to spike in Israel, where 62 percent of the nation’s population is fully vaccinated.
The Israeli Health Ministry’s findings regarding the efficacy of natural immunity are similar to those seen in a Cleveland Clinic study released in June.
There were 52,238 health care workers included in the study. Of those, 2,579 previously were infected with COVID-19 and 1,359 were unvaccinated.
“The individuals were tracked from December 2020 to May 2021, during which time none of the 2,579 people who’d already had COVID-19 (including the 1,359 who remained unvaccinated) contracted the virus,” according to Healthline.
“Preliminary data suggest that immunity from natural infection is long-lived, lasting up to 8 months and likely longer.”
How the delta variant may impact these earlier findings is yet to be determined.
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine professor Dr. Marty Makary believes the strength of natural immunity from COVID has been under-recognized.
“During every month of this pandemic, I’ve had debates with other public researchers about the effectiveness and durability of natural immunity,” he wrote in an Op-Ed for U.S. News & World Report last week.
“I’ve been told that natural immunity could fall off a cliff, rendering people susceptible to infection. But here we are now, over a year and a half into the clinical experience of observing patients who were infected, and natural immunity is effective and going strong. And that’s because with natural immunity, the body develops antibodies to the entire surface of the virus, not just a spike protein constructed from a vaccine.”
— Brit Hume (@brithume) August 6, 2021
Makary argued rather than categorizing people as being vaccinated and unvaccinated, the better designations would be immune and non-immune.
“Immunity is something people can test for with a simple antibody test. I would never recommend that anyone intentionally acquire the infection in order to get natural immunity, but vaccine passports and proof-of-vaccine documents should recognize it,” he wrote.
The pandemic of the unvaccinated is a misnomer. It’s a pandemic of the non-immune. More precisely, it’s a series of regional outbreaks in select pockets of the country with low population immunity. Same take-home message though: If you’re not immune, get immune by getting vaxed.
— Marty Makary MD, MPH (@MartyMakary) July 29, 2021
“Now, if someone does not have natural immunity from prior infection, then they should immediately go out and get the vaccine. I’m pro-vaccine. But the issue of the appropriate clinical indication of the vaccine is not an all-or-nothing phenomenon, as we frequently see in American culture and politics,” Makary added.
In an interview last week with The Vince Coglianese Show, the medical professor contended, “One of the great failures of our medical leadership has been ignoring the half of America with natural immunity, which is the half of non-vaccinated folks.”
Makary further stated that natural immunity appears to be better protection for your body in fending off the delta variant than being fully vaccinated.
At least the CDC has taken the baby step of recognizing natural immunity lasting for three months in its travel advisory.
That’s a start.
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