Natural immunity

2004 Clip Shows Fauci Saying, “The Best Vaccination Is to Get Infected”

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.

Vaccine Mandates Are “Scientifically Questionable” and “Ethically Problematic”, Say Researchers

A group of medical researchers and bioethicists have written a comprehensive assessment of Covid vaccine coercion policies, encompassing passports, mandates and segregated lockdowns. They argue in no uncertain terms that these measures are “scientifically questionable” and “ethically problematic”.

While most of the points in their article will be familiar to readers of the Daily Sceptic, the article is valuable in virtue of its sheer breadth and attention to detail. I’ll try to provide a brief summary.

Kevin Bardosh and colleagues begin by noting that the publicly communicated rationale for Covid vaccine policies has shifted over time, from ‘ending the pandemic’ and ‘getting back to normal’, to reducing the burden on the healthcare system. (Such shifts do not inspire confidence that policymakers really know what they’re doing.)

The authors spend the bulk of the article discussing the harmful unintended consequences of Covid vaccine policies, drawing on insights from the behavioural sciences, law and bioethics.

They cite evidence that the coercive nature of Covid vaccine policies is likely to reduce compliance with other public health measures, including recommendations to take existing vaccines (which have much longer track records than the Covid vaccines). This owes to mechanisms of psychological reactance and loss of trust in the health authorities.

The authors argue that such effects will be compounded by the use of stigmatisation as a public health strategy, and by the dissemination of misleading or false claims on the part of health authorities (such as Anthony Fauci’s claim that, once vaccinated, “you become a dead end to the virus”).

As regards the former, the authors have compiled a list of some of the most incendiary statements made by politicians about unvaccinated people.

Emmanuel Macron admitted his aim was “pissing them off”. Justin Trudeau described them as “extremists who don’t believe in science”, adding “they’re often misogynists, also often racists”. Naftali Bennett accused them of “endangering their health, those around them and the freedom of every Israeli citizen”.

U.K. Government Admits Natural Immunity is Stronger Than Vaccine Immunity

A Daily Sceptic reader sent us the letter he received recently from the Office for National Statistics, a Government body, in which it states that “having had a COVID-19 infection before usually gives a stronger immune response than vaccination”.

Our bodies respond to infection and to vaccination in slightly different ways. Having had a COVID-19 infection before usually gives a stronger immune response than vaccination. To get a similar level of protection from vaccination alone, a higher level of antibodies is needed. 

Given how often this has been denied by Government scientists and advisers keen to encourage those who’ve been previously infected to get vaccinated anyway, this is an important admission.

Natural Immunity Provides Robust Protection Against Omicron, Study Finds

Natural immunity from previous infection remains strong against Omicron, particularly with respect to severe disease and death, a study from Qatar has found.

The study, published in the NEJM, included all reported infections in the country, excluding only those with Ct value over 30 to avoid non-infectious and false positives. The study is a follow-up to one we reported in December, with the new study including results for Omicron (we have previously linked to the pre-print version).

The researchers used a test-negative case-control design and matched cases to controls according to sex, 10-year age group, nationality, and calendar time of PCR testing to avoid biases and confounders. The limitations of a test-negative case-control design need therefore to be borne in mind.

The topline finding was that previous infection was 92% protective against Delta and 56% against Omicron – so reinfection is significantly more likely with Omicron but protection is still strong. Two Omicron reinfections became severe, but none became critical or fatal. Here are the result in full, with the table below.

Infecting Yourself With Omicron: The Unvaccinated Rebel in Italy

There follows a guest post by a Daily Sceptic reader based in Italy, who wishes to remain anonymous, on the devastating impact of vaccine passports and the lengths the unvaccinated will go to to get the infection that gains them an exemption.

Sometimes they meet with the positivo in a flat. Sometimes they go further and share water bottles, embraces and masks. The aim is simple. To infect yourself with omicron. In December and January I increasingly ran into unvaccinated Italian friends actively looking to get Covid. This has barely been covered in Italy’s newspapers, but it involves hundreds of thousands of Italians and it is part of the explanation for rising numbers here.

Why would you get ill on purpose? If you ask the self-infectors you will be offered various evasions: deliberately spreading Covid is a crime. However, the simple answer is a perverse mechanism introduced by vaccine passports. Passports are given to those: i) who have been vaccinated; and to ii) those who have had Covid. If you can register a hit with a certified test, you avoid government passport restrictions for six months.

In September 2021 this did not matter so much. Only restaurants and some meetings were off-limits to those without vaccinations. Even in these cases it was possible to get a temporary ‘passport’ with a test. Then the Government extended its writ across different areas of the economy, not least the teaching professions and healthcare. Next the simple loophole of a test was threaded tighter. Then rules on planes were extended to busses and trains… The screw has slowly been turned.

The Government presented in early January 2022, a new raft of laws to hem the unvaccinated in still further. The unvaccinated will no longer, from February, be able to go in a shop save for certain ‘essentials’ without a passport. Hairdressers and beauty saloons, banks and post offices have also been decreed off-limits. The above rules applied to all residents older than twelve. The unvaccinated over fifty were liable, meanwhile, to ill-defined spot fines.

Why Are Deaths in Europe Soaring When Covid Isn’t to Blame?

Deaths are running high across Europe this winter, particularly before Omicron came along. But it’s not Covid, at least, half of it isn’t. Between the start of July and mid-December, in nine European countries, around 86,000 more people than usual died. However, Covid deaths numbered around 42,000, leaving around 44,000 above-average deaths from other causes – more than doubling the excess mortality. To put this in context, in the previous winter there were no excess deaths from other causes across these countries – in fact, there were around 5,600 more Covid deaths than excess deaths – meaning the alarming trend is new this season. The question is, why? Why is winter 2021-22 seeing high non-Covid excess mortality when winter 2020-21 didn’t see any at all?

The chart below depicts the trends in Covid mortality and excess mortality (top graph) and the difference between them i.e., non-Covid excess mortality (bottom graph) in the nine countries. The data comes from Our World in Data, and the nine countries – Austria, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and U.K. – are the nine Western European countries which report excess deaths data weekly and had data available up to mid-December. Between them they have a population of 218,646,258. To ensure the comparison is as accurate as possible the two curves are aligned using the peak of winter deaths in 2020-21, which allows for additional reporting delays in excess mortality. (This is why the excess mortality line is a week shorter than the Covid mortality line, and also why the figures quoted above are rounded as the estimates are not precise.)

The lack of non-Covid excess mortality in winter 2020-21 is clear here, as is its striking rise since July 2021. Other notable features include the high non-Covid excess mortality in spring 2020, which may be a mix of misclassified Covid deaths at a time of minimal testing and lockdown deaths of the frail, and the smallish hump in summer 2020, which may be heat deaths. The mortality displacement (‘dry tinder’) effect is also clear in spring 2021, when non-Covid excess mortality drops very low, which makes the subsequent rise all the more notable.

What could be behind the recent wave of non-Covid excess mortality? It doesn’t appear to be lockdown deaths, as its appearance in autumn 2021 doesn’t coincide with when strict restrictions were in place, while when there were strong restrictions in place in most countries in early 2021, non-Covid excess mortality was low and falling.

Could it be vaccine injuries? Not it seems in a straightforward way, as when the vaccine rollout was in full swing, targeting the oldest cohorts (which dominate all-cause and Covid mortality) during the early months of 2021, excess deaths were falling sharply.

Significantly, however, it does coincide with the Delta Covid wave. The simplest explanation would therefore seem to be that they are misclassified Covid deaths, somehow missed by testing and doctors. However, doubt is cast on that hypothesis by the fact that it didn’t happen in winter 2020-21 (as noted above, there were more Covid deaths than excess deaths that winter), and by the fact that there was more testing in late 2021, not less, making it even less likely that large numbers of Covid deaths were being missed.

Natural Immunity Superior to Vaccine Immunity, CDC Study Finds

A study by the U.S. CDC (a Federal Government health agency) has found that natural immunity is superior to vaccine immunity alone, and that being vaccinated on top makes little difference, confirming the findings of several studies in other countries.

The study looked at Covid infection and hospitalisation rates in California and New York during the Delta period, June to November 2021. The chart below shows the hazard rates over time for the four cohorts (no vaccine and no prior infection; no vaccine and prior infection; vaccine and no prior infection; vaccine and prior infection) for hospital admissions, adjusted for age – focus especially on the relative heights of the three dashed lines near the bottom.

The authors write: “These results demonstrate that vaccination protects against COVID-19 and related hospitalisation, and that surviving a previous infection protects against a reinfection and related hospitalisation.” Note that the unvaccinated group here is split between those who are and are not previously infected, so is not directly comparable to the UKHSA data which does not make this distinction.

The authors note that, while prior to July the vaccinated were better off than the previously infected, come the summer and the arrival of Delta, prior infection was stronger.

Similar to the early period of this study, two previous U.S. studies found more protection from vaccination than from previous infection during periods before Delta predominance. As was observed in the present study after July, recent international studies have also demonstrated increased protection in persons with previous infection, with or without vaccination, relative to vaccination alone.

In a nod to the superior effect on the immune system of exposure to the virus, they comment : “This might be due to differential stimulation of the immune response by either exposure type.”

The vaccines waned in efficacy over time and against Delta, the authors note: “Importantly, infection-derived protection was greater after the highly transmissible Delta variant became predominant, coinciding with early declining of vaccine-induced immunity in many persons.”

In contrast, protection from natural immunity didn’t appear to wane: “Whereas French and Israeli population-based studies noted waning protection from previous infection, this was not apparent in the results from this or other large U.K. and U.S. studies.”

What the Mail’s Take-Down of Natural Immunity Gets Wrong

Dr. Michael Mosley in the Daily Mail has written a piece criticising those like Novak Djokovic who say they regard themselves as in no need of vaccination as they have protection from a previous Covid infection. In the article Dr. Mosley – who is medically qualified but no longer a registered doctor and has worked as a BBC journalist for the past 37 years – makes a series of claims about the vaccines and natural immunity that don’t withstand scrutiny.

The first is that previous infection provides much less protection against Omicron infection than does vaccination.

Just because you have antibodies against a previous strain of Covid, that does not mean you are protected against catching, or spreading it to more vulnerable people such as patients with cancer or pregnant women. A study published in December, by researchers from Imperial College London, concluded that the protection against Omicron, if you have had a prior Covid infection “may be as low as 19%”. A course of vaccines – the double dose plus the booster – on the other hand, offers something like 75% protection.

What Dr. Mosley doesn’t mention is that the December study from Imperial was a preliminary study that also found no evidence of Omicron “having lower severity than Delta”. Omicron is now known to be considerably less severe than Delta, suggesting the study should not be taken as the final word on Omicron and natural immunity. A more recent study puts the protection provided by natural immunity against Omicron infection at 56%. This is higher than the level of protection reported for the boosters by the UKHSA, which finds just 40-50% protection at 10 weeks. The protection provided by previous infection is also more resilient.

Dr. Mosley’s explanation of why the protection from vaccines is supposedly superior to that from previous infection also makes no sense. He writes:

Why the difference? It appears that our immune systems are very good at learning from experience. The more often your immune system is challenged by a virus (or a vaccine, which is mimicking that virus), the better it gets at defending itself against it.

The first time your immune system encounters a virus it isn’t quite sure how to react and it takes time to start building an effective response. While that is happening, the virus is busy replicating, spreading and doing damage.

If you’re lucky, your immune system will spring into action and you will recover after a trivial illness. If you are unlucky, you end up in hospital, perhaps in intensive care. The idea of a vaccine is that your immune system gets the nudge to start working long before you are exposed to the real thing.

The reason for a second, and even third jab, is this amplifies and refines your immune response to protect you, and others, in the future.

This of course fails to explain why encountering the virus should provide less effective immune protection than a vaccine. Just because while your body is working out how to counter the virus the virus can make you unwell tells you nothing about how strong your subsequent immunity to re-infection will be. It is true that a vaccine mimics a virus to prime your immune system, and the idea of multiple shots is to improve that response. However, there is plenty of evidence that the vaccines are weaker and less resilient against infection than natural immunity. For example, see the chart below from a large Danish study, where the orange line for the previously infected (but not vaccinated) is higher and stays much higher than the green line for the vaccinated (but not previously infected).

Natural Immunity to One Variant Protects Against Severe Disease From Another

We already have evidence that natural immunity provides better protection against infection than the vaccines. And since you can’t get severe disease if you don’t get infected, this implies that natural immunity also provides better protection against severe disease.  

Of course, if you did get severe disease the first time around, it may not be much consolation to know that you now have strong protection against that outcome. However, the fact that natural immunity provides strong protection against severe disease should still be considered good news.

Even if you had severe disease once, it’s reassuring to know you’re less likely to have it again. And since different variants of Covid have different properties, it’s possible that a bad bout of Covid caused one variant might protect against a worse bout caused by another.

But what degree of protection are we talking about? A recent study from Qatar, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, has some answers.

Using a large national database, the researchers identified cases of severe, critical and fatal disease caused by primary infections and reinfections from March of 2020 to April 2021. Individuals who’d been vaccinated were excluded from the analysis.

Primary infection was defined as the first positive test; secondary infection as the first positive test obtained at least 90 days after the primary infection. To compare like with like, the researchers matched individuals with reinfections to those with primary infections by age, sex, nationality, and week of the test date.

Of the 1,304 reinfections, 32% were caused by the Beta variant; 4% were caused by the Alpha variant; and 16% were caused by the original Wuhan strain. The remaining 48% were of unknown status.

However, given that Alpha and Beta were overwhelmingly dominant by the time Qatar experienced its second wave, and the fact that natural immunity typically lasts for more than a year, it’s likely that the vast majority of the “unknown” reinfections were caused by either Alpha or Beta.

Results are shown in the table below. The reason why the totals are much greater in the right-hand column is that the researchers matched individuals in a ratio of 1:5 to get a larger sample size.

The results are presented as odds, but percentage are easier to understand. Looking at the final row, the percentage of reinfections that led to severe, critical or fatal disease was 0.3%, whereas the corresponding percentage of primary infections was 3.1% – about ten times higher.

This suggests that natural immunity to the original Wuhan strain reduces the risk of severe disease from Alpha or Beta –  conditional on infection – by about 90%. And if you assume that Alpha and Beta are more virulent than the original Wuhan strain, the risk reduction is even greater.

Widespread natural immunity is more than capable of defanging Covid. Which is why it should have been part of our strategy from the very beginning, along with focused protection for high-risk groups. In Britain, it actually was part of our strategy… until the Government went for lockdown instead.

Most Democrats Wrongly Believe That Vaccines Provide More Protection Than Natural Immunity

I’ve written before about people’s skewed perceptions of the risks of Covid. Interestingly but perhaps not surprisingly, perceptions are more skewed among Democrats than they are among Republicans.

As recently as September of this year – that is, more than a year and a half into the pandemic – 41% of Democrats said the risk of hospitalisation if you’re not vaccinated is at least 50%! (The true figure is at least ten times lower.)

A new survey reveals another fallacy that’s widespread among Democrats. On 15–16th December, Rasmussen Reports put the following question to a representative sample of Americans:

Which is more effective in preventing COVID-19 — natural immunity from prior infection with the virus, or getting vaccinated against the virus? Or are both natural immunity and vaccination equally effective?

The correct answer, according to the polling company, is that they’re “equally effective”. I’d beg to differ – several studies have found that natural immunity provides more protection. However, the correct answer surely isn’t “getting vaccinated”.

Among Republicans, 43% gave what I regard as the correct answer of “natural immunity”, and only 25% said “getting vaccinated”. Yet among Democrats, a sizeable majority of 61% said “getting vaccinated”, while only 17% said “natural immunity”.

There is one caveat. Some respondents may have interpreted “Which is more effective” to mean “Which is a better way of acquiring immunity to Covid”. And at least for the elderly and clinically vulnerable, the correct answer to this question may well be “getting vaccinated”.

Having said that, the most natural interpretation of “Which is more effective” is clearly the one the polling company intended, namely “Which protects better against infection”.

So, why does such a large percentage of the US population – 41% overall – wrongly believe that vaccines provide more protection than natural immunity?

Well, it’s actually not surprising when you consider how many scientists have denied or downplayed natural immunity to Covid. Recall last year’s John Snow Memorandum, which stated, “there is no evidence for lasting protective immunity to SARS-CoV-2 following natural infection”. (The Memorandum was co-signed by CDC director Rochelle Walensky.)

People can hardly be expected to have accurate beliefs when scientists aren’t giving them accurate information. At this point, a correction is surely in order: ‘We got it wrong: there is evidence for lasting protective immunity following natural infection’.