Smaller CDC study shows vaccines offer better protection
As the Delta wave of COVID-19 continues to decline from its mid-September peak in Washington state, many people are concerned about the declining efficacy of the three approved vaccines from the Food and Drug Administration. The government has authorized “at risk” patients to begin getting a booster shot of any of the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson and Johnson vaccines.
Yet an estimated 745,000 Washington citizens have already recovered from COVID-19 according to the Washington Department of Health (DOH). Their body has successfully fought the virus and has developed not only antibodies, but B and T cell lymphocytes to provide a defense should the individual encounter the virus again.
Last week, the DOH launched a new “vaccine verification” tool. The system provides a digital copy of state vaccine records according to the website. “You may also show your CDC provided COVID-19 card or your state immunization record,” the website states if you are required to show “proof” of vaccination status. There is no mention of natural immunity.
Does the body’s natural defense system, or the “natural immunity” one acquires after having COVID-19, offer better protection than the three FDA approved vaccines? Should someone with natural immunity be required to get a vaccination anyway?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has weighed in, issuing a report Friday evening. Reviewing scores of research studies and its own unpublished data, the agency found that both infection-induced and vaccine-induced immunity are durable for at least six months — but that vaccines are more consistent in their protection and offer a huge boost in antibodies for people previously infected, according to one news report.
However a recent Israeli study shows that natural immunity is 13 times more effective than vaccines in protecting individuals. “SARS-CoV-2-naïve vaccines had a 13-fold increased risk for breakthrough infection with the Delta variant compared to those previously infected.”
Yet the smaller CDC study offers a different conclusion, that the vaccines offer better protection. While the Israeli study had 10 times more people, they primarily used the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. In the U.S., three are approved, including the Pfizer, the Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
“The increased risk was significant for symptomatic disease as well,” states the Israeli report. There was waning natural immunity identified as well. However, vaccinated individuals had “a 5.96-fold increased risk for breakthrough infection and a 7.13-fold increased risk for symptomatic disease.” There was also a greater risk for COVID-19-related hospitalizations compared to those that were previously infected.
Israel is one of the most vaccinated countries in the world. This summer they experienced a “fourth wave” of the Delta variant of COVID-19 including those who were allegedly “protected” by the vaccine. Israel has over 1.3 million people who got sick from the virus and 8,130 who died.
“This study demonstrated that natural immunity confers longer lasting and stronger protection against infection, symptomatic disease and hospitalization caused by the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, compared to the BNT162b2 two-dose vaccine-induced immunity,” said the Israeli study. “Individuals who were both previously infected with SARS-CoV-2 and given a single dose of the vaccine gained additional protection against the Delta variant.”
The Israeli study period was March 1, 2020 to August 14, 2021. They used a database of Maccabi Healthcare Services (MHS), Israel’s second largest Health Maintenance Organization.
It is a 2.5-million-member, state-mandated, non-for-profit, second largest health fund in Israel, which covers 26 percent of the population and provides a representative sample of the Israeli population..
Overall, 673,676 MHS members 16 years and older were eligible for the study group of fully vaccinated SARS-CoV-2-naïve individuals; 62,883 were eligible for the study group of unvaccinated previously infected individuals and 42,099 individuals were eligible for the study group of previously infected and single-dose vaccines.
Conversely, the CDC touts a study which came to a different conclusion.
Researchers from CDC’s VISION network gathered data from 187 hospitals across nine states. These were New York, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Utah, California, Oregon, Washington, Indiana, and Colorado, according to one report.
An analysis of the data showed that 7,348 people, or a little over 3 percent of the participants, met the study criteria. Among the 6,328 people who were fully vaccinated, 324 (or 5.1 percent) had a positive COVID-19 PCR test. Among the 1,020 who were unvaccinated and who had previously had the infection, 89 (or 8.7 percent) had a positive COVID-19 PCR test.
According to the study authors, “These findings suggest that among hospitalized adults with COVID-19-like illness whose previous infection or vaccination occurred 90–179 days earlier, vaccine-induced immunity was more protective than infection-induced immunity against laboratory-confirmed COVID-19.”
Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, TN, commented on the CDC study.
He said: “For a long time, we’ve known that people [who have the infection], if they are subsequently vaccinated, will have much higher levels of antibodies than people who [have the infection] but are not vaccinated. Natural infection plus vaccination is better than natural infection alone.”
Some say the different results may be related to differences in the methods of the two studies and restrictions on the timing of vaccinations. It should be noted that the Israeli study had a pool of people 10 times larger than the number in the CDC study. They also primarily used the Pfizer mRNA vaccine.
Dr. Marty Makary, a professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and editor in chief of MedPage Today, argues that mandating vaccines for “every living, walking American” is, as of now, not well-supported by science.
“Some people already have ‘natural immunity’ – that is, immunity from prior COVID infection,” he said in August. “During every month of this pandemic, I’ve had debates with other public researchers about the effectiveness and durability of natural immunity. 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.
“The power of natural immunity was recently affirmed in an Israeli study, which found a 6.7 times greater level of protection among those with natural immunity vs. those with vaccinated immunity,” he said.
In September, Makary shared that there are more than 15 studies that have demonstrated the power of immunity acquired by previously having the virus. He referenced Israel “found that those who had experienced prior infections were 27 times less likely to get a second symptomatic covid infection than those who were vaccinated.”
This affirmed a June Cleveland Clinic study of health-care workers (who are often exposed to the virus), in which none who had previously tested positive for the coronavirus got reinfected. The study authors concluded that “individuals who have had SARS-CoV-2 infection are unlikely to benefit from covid-19 vaccination.” In May, a Washington University study found that even a mild COVID infection resulted in long-lasting immunity.
Makary shared a commonly asked question. “I’ve recovered from covid, is it absolutely essential that I get vaccinated?” Many public health officials have put aside the data and responded with a synchronized “yes,” even as studies have shown that reinfections are rare and often asymptomatic or mild when they do occur, he said.
Presently, the CDC and Washington state officials do not recognize “natural immunity” when it comes to the vaccine mandates issued by the Biden Administration or the Jay Inslee administration.