GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky took Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to task on Thursday for failing to take into account the efficacy of natural immunity among those who have not received the COVID-19 vaccine.
Paul asked Becerra during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing if he had read an Israeli study conducted in the spring involving 2.5 million patients that found that the vaccinated were “seven times” more likely to contract the coronavirus than those who had already recovered from the illness.
In fact, the researchers found less than a tenth of one percent of those who recovered from COVID were reinfected.
“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.
Becerra told Paul that he was “not familiar” with the study.
“You’d think you might want to be,” Paul replied, “if you’re going to travel the country insulting the millions of Americans, including NBA star Jonathan Isaac, who have had COVID, recovered, look at a study with 2.5 million people and say, ‘Well, you know what? It looks like my immunity is as good as the vaccine or not, and in a free country, maybe I ought to be able to make that decision.'”
Instead, Becerra is calling those who decided not to get the vaccine, including Paul himself, “flat-earthers” the senator said.
“We find that very insulting. It goes against the science,” Paul said.
“Are you a doctor — a medical doctor?” he asked.
“I’ve worked over 30 years on health policy,” Becerra answered.
Paul, an ophthalmologist, followed up then asking if the HHS secretary had a science degree.
Becerra did not answer.
“You’ve made these decisions — a lawyer with no scientific background, no medical degree,” Paul continued. “This is an arrogance coupled with an authoritarianism that is unseemly and un-American.”
“You, sir, are the one ignoring the science.”
The lawmaker said the “vast preponderance of scientific studies … show robust long-lasting immunity after COVID infection.”
“You should be ashamed of yourself and apologize to the American people for being dishonest about naturally acquired immunity.”
Dr. Marty Makary, a professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, believes the strength of natural immunity from COVID has been under-recognized by policy makers.
“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 in August.
“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,” he recounted.
“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.”
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
Makary argued that rather than categorizing people as being vaccinated and unvaccinated, the better designations would be immune and non-immune.
In an August interview on “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.”
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