The Flaw in the New ZOE Study Showing Vaccine Protection Better Than Natural Immunity

The ZOE Covid Study App (which recently changed its estimates again, which doesn’t exactly instil confidence) released a study earlier in the month (or rather a press release with no link to an actual study) which claimed natural immunity following infection “only gave 65% protection against catching it again”. This compared to 71% protection from the AstraZeneca vaccine (rising to 90% for those who had tested positive for Covid before) and 87% protection from the Pfizer vaccine (rising to 95% for the previously test-positive). The researchers say the results came from during the U.K. Delta wave.

This is a surprisingly low estimate for the protection given by natural immunity. Other estimates have tended to be more like 80% against testing positive and 90% against symptomatic infection. A recent study from Israel (not yet peer-reviewed) found natural immunity was 13 times better than Pfizer vaccination at preventing PCR positives during the Delta surge and 27 times better at preventing symptomatic infection.

The ZOE result is similar, however, to a recent (very flawed) study based on the ONS infection survey, which claimed to find just 55% protection from natural infection. A similarly flawed study from Oxford University, also based on the ONS survey, found natural infection just 66% effective.

The main problem with the ZOE study is that it only looks at infections from May and June 2021. This was mostly a time of very low prevalence, though with the beginnings of the Delta surge occurring in the latter half.

It was also a period in which infections occurred largely in the unvaccinated (for reasons that remain somewhat unclear), pre-dating the surge in infections in the vaccinated that occurred from the second half of July.

Significantly, it was a period in which, according to analysis of Government data by HART, almost all positive tests were from asymptomatic individuals.

As Clare Craig points out, this means many are likely to be false positives.

The question is, why do a study on such an anomalous period, and leave out the more than three months of data following it when reported infections in the vaccinated surged?

It seems safe to say that this is yet another study with serious flaws which gives a misleadingly high impression of the protection from vaccines, and a misleadingly low impression of the protection from natural immunity.

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