Florida has joined the ranks of GOP-led states that are requiring employers to carve out an exemption to COVID-19 vaccine mandates for those who have recovered from prior infection.
CBS News reported Wednesday that West Virginia and Arkansas also have this policy in place.
Additionally, “Republicans in Idaho, New Hampshire, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, and Wyoming are also pursuing bills seeking to protect unvaccinated employees who can show they survived a prior infection, among other excluded groups,” according to the news outlet.
The move comes as President Joe Biden continues to push employers to require all employees to get vaccinated.
At an event in Brandon, Florida, last week, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation aimed at upholding individuals’ rights to make their own decisions regarding receiving the COVID vaccine.
Recognized exemptions for employees under the new Florida law include health or religious concerns, pregnancy or anticipated future pregnancy, and past recovery from COVID-19.
“Unlike what you see going on with some of the federal proposed mandates, other states, is we’re actually doing a science-based approach,” DeSantis said.
“For example, we recognize people that have natural immunity. … You have natural immunity, whatever a private employer wants to do, you’re automatically exempt because of natural immunity,” he said.
In September, DeSantis cited a study out of Israel that found natural immunity is stronger than being vaccinated.
The journal Science reported the previous month that the Israeli study to which he referred relied on a database of 2.5 million Israelis enrolled in the Maccabi Healthcare Services.
“In one analysis, comparing more than 32,000 people in the health system, the risk of developing symptomatic COVID-19 was 27 times higher among the vaccinated, and the risk of hospitalization eight times higher” than those who had recovered from COVID, it said.
“It’s a textbook example of how natural immunity is really better than vaccination,” Charlotte Thålin, a physician and immunology researcher at Sweden’s Danderyd Hospital and the Karolinska Institute, said of the study, which reviewed data from June 1 to Aug. 14.
No one in the study — among the vaccinated and those had recovered from COVID — died from the virus, offering a “clear sign that vaccines still offer a formidable shield against serious disease, even if not as good as natural immunity,” the report said.
A study published in August by the Rockefeller University in New York supported the Israeli findings.
Researchers determined one advantage natural immunity confers over vaccination is the memory B cell response.
“Unlike circulating antibodies, which peak soon after vaccination or infection only to fade a few months later, memory B cells can stick around to prevent severe disease for decades. And they evolve over time, learning to produce successively more potent ‘memory antibodies’ that are better at neutralizing the virus and more capable of adapting to variants,” the university reported.
“While vaccination gives rise to memory B cells that evolve over a few weeks, natural infection births memory B cells that continue to evolve over several months, producing highly potent antibodies adept at eliminating even viral variants.”
Dr. Michel C. Nussenzweig, head of Rockefeller’s Laboratory of Molecular Immunology and an author of the study, warned the findings should not be interpreted by those who have not recovered from COVID as a reason to forgo getting vaccinated.
“While a natural infection may induce maturation of antibodies with broader activity than a vaccine does — a natural infection can also kill you,” Nussenzweig said.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study released last month backed the efficacy of natural immunity but pointed out that a single dose of the vaccine taken by those who recovered appeared to offer heightened protection.
“Available evidence shows that fully vaccinated individuals and those previously infected with SARS-CoV-2 each have a low risk of subsequent infection for at least 6 months,” the CDC said. “Data are presently insufficient to determine an antibody titer threshold that indicates when an individual is protected from infection.”
The agency added, “There is clear evidence that neutralizing antibody and memory B cell response elicited by a single dose of mRNA vaccine following previous infection with SARS-CoV-2 results in an increased antibody titer that is approximately equivalent to a two-dose vaccine regimen in individuals who were not previously infected.”
Dr. Marty Makary, a professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, has faulted policymakers for being too slow to acknowledge natural immunity.
“The pandemic of the unvaccinated is a misnomer. It’s a pandemic of the non-immune,” he tweeted in July.
“More precisely, it’s a series of regional outbreaks in select pockets of the country with low population immunity,” Makary said. “Same take-home message though: If you’re not immune, get immune by getting vaxed.”
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
Last week, Makary tweeted research from Columbia University estimating that one in three Americans had already had COVID by the end of 2020.
1 in 3 Americans had Covid last year (Columbia Univ). I’m constantly amazed how unvax people are being fired despite having circulating antibodies to Covid. They HAVE antibodies that neutralize the virus.. but the antibodies are not recognized by the gov’thttps://t.co/kcUBcooXWC
— Marty Makary MD, MPH (@MartyMakary) November 22, 2021
“I’m constantly amazed how unvax people are being fired despite having circulating antibodies to Covid,” he wrote. “They HAVE antibodies that neutralize the virus.. but the antibodies are not recognized by the gov’t.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.