The public health establishment has been extremely reluctant to admit that natural immunity provides strong protection against severe Covid. And while protection against infection is lower for the highly mutated (and possibly lab-generated) Omicron variant, it’s still better than what the vaccines provide.
For example, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky signed the John Snow Memorandum – a clumsy rebuttal to the Great Barrington Declaration which claimed “there is no evidence for lasting protective immunity to SARS-CoV-2 following natural infection”. (The Memorandum was published in October of 2021.)
Given this reluctance, it’s unsurprising that health authorities have insisted that those with natural immunity still need to get vaccinated. For example, the US federal vaccine mandate did not include an exemption for such people. And to this day, the CDC website states, “You should get a COVID-19 vaccine even if you already had COVID-19.”
Anthony Fauci was among those who stressed that previous infection was no reason not to get vaccinated, telling one radio host who’d already had Covid, “it’s very likely that if you didn’t get the vaccine your antibodies levels will start going down and down and down and down.” (This was in April of 2021.)
Now a 2004 video clip of Fauci has resurfaced, in which he takes a very different line on natural immunity. Fauci is asked whether a woman who’s had the flu for 14 days should get a flu shot, and he responds as follows:
Well, no, if she got the flu for 14 days, she’s as protected as anybody can be because the best vaccination is to get infected yourself … If she really has the flu, she definitely doesn’t need a flu vaccine … She doesn’t need it because the most potent vaccination is getting infected yourself.
In fact, as recently as March of 2020, Fauci told an email correspondent who asked whether someone is likely to be immune after catching Covid, “you would assume their would be substantial immunity post infection”.
And the issue of whether convalescents (people who’ve already had Covid) need to get vaccinated isn’t purely academic.
There’s tentative evidence that side effects are more common among those with natural immunity, meaning the costs may well outweigh the benefits for that group. What’s more, we ended up wasting millions of doses that could have gone to people who actually needed them, such as the elderly and vulnerable in poor countries.
As Fauci’s comments from 2004 and March of 2020 make clear, the John Snow Memorandum was simply wrong to claim “there is no evidence for lasting protective immunity to SARS-CoV-2 following natural infection”.
After all, evidence from other respiratory viruses surely counts (even if it’s not as powerful as evidence from SARS-CoV-2 itself). Each time a new respiratory virus emerges, do scientists go back to the drawing board and pretend they know nothing about how it interacts with the immune system?
In fact, the first challenge trial for Covid was published way back in May of 2020, although it involved monkeys rather than humans. There was clear evidence for natural immunity, with the researchers finding “near-complete protection in all animals after SARS-CoV-2 rechallenge”.
So we’ve always had good circumstantial evidence for natural immunity from Covid. But health authorities chose to ignore or downplay it.
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