By Marty Makary who is a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health, editor-in-chief of Medpage Today, and author of “The Price We Pay: What Broke American Health Care — and How to Fix It.”

(Note from Steve Ray: I take this very seriously because our whole family had covid in January and we are now naturally immune, but still treated as though we are a threat to society and constantly assaulted by vaccine propoganda that implies vaccines are the only way to save the planet, even for those who have natural immunity. Thankfully some, like Israel, are beginning to discuss the immunity – even to variants – brought about by naturally occurring covid antibodies.)

People making decisions about their health deserve honesty from their leaders

It’s okay to have an incorrect scientific hypothesis. But when new data proves it wrong, you have to adapt. Unfortunately, many elected leaders and public health officials have held on far too long to the hypothesis that natural immunity offers unreliable protection against covid-19 — a contention that is being rapidly debunked by science.

More than 15 studies have demonstrated the power of immunity acquired by previously having the virus. A 700,000-person study from Israel two weeks ago found that those who had experienced prior infectionswere 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 nonewho 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.” And in May, a Washington University study found that even a mild covid infection resulted in long-lasting immunity.

So, the emerging science suggests that natural immunity is as good as or better than vaccine-induced immunity. That’s why it’s so frustrating that the Biden administration has repeatedly argued that immunity conferred by vaccines is preferable to immunity caused by natural infection, as NIH director Francis Collins told Fox News host told Bret Baier a few weeks ago. That rigid adherence to an outdated theory is also reflected in President Biden’s recent announcement that large companies must require their employees to get vaccinated or submit to regular testing, regardless of whether they previously had the virus.

Downplaying the power of natural immunity has had deadly consequences. In January, February and March, we wasted scarce vaccine doses on millions of people who previously had covid. If we had asked Americans who were already protected by natural immunity to step aside in the vaccine line, tens of thousands of lives could have been saved. This is not just in hindsight is 20/20; many of us were vehemently arguing and writing at the time for such a rationing strategy.

One reason public health officials may be afraid to acknowledge the effectiveness of natural immunity is that they fear it will lead some to choose getting the infection over vaccination. That’s a legitimate concern. But we can encourage all Americans to get vaccinated while still being honest about the data. In my clinical experience, I have found patients to be extremely forgiving with evolving data if you are honest and transparent with them. Yet, when asked the common 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.

The tide may finally be shifting, as pressure has grown on federal officials. Last week on CNN, Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease specialist, hinted that the government may be rethinking its stance on natural immunity, saying, “I think that is something that we need to sit down and discuss seriously.” Some large medical centers, like Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, Mich., have already announced they will recognize natural immunity for their vaccine requirements. Some Republican governors have picked up on public frustration over how the scientific guidance is inconsistent with the data, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis accusing the Biden administration of “not following science” by crafting its vaccine mandate without taking into consideration “infection-conferred immunity.”

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Tom Grelinger

    Steve, I was leaning towards that point of view that having previously experienced COVID that a vaccine was not necessary, but recently in the larger area around Kansas City is this person’s experience – A pizza shop owner/school board member had previously had COVID (his family is stating that he believed he had COVID before), was re-infected, and passed away. That has left me uncertain, but for me, the question is moot. I knew as late as February 2021 that I had no antibodies and was vaccinated in March/April.

    STEVE RAY HERE: The statistics show that if you’ve had covid you are protected from getting it again, even the variants. I have read many such reports. I noticed that the one you mentioned “believed he had covid” but if he got it again, it is extremely unlikely he got it again. My guess is he never had it in the beginning. My whole family has antibodies and though we don’t wear masks or do social distancing, no one has gotten it again. I would be interested to see if you find any documented cases of reinfection.

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