COVID-19 and Natural Immunity: Responding to the Israel Study
There are many questions about the Israeli study demonstrating that “natural immunity” to CoVID was more protective than that induced by vaccination. As screengrabs of this headline circulate across social media, it is important to point out several things.
First, this study is a pre-print and has not yet been peer-reviewed. That said, we know that for many diseases, natural immunity CAN be more protective than that induced by vaccination. So the conclusions are not necessarily unfathomable. The issue is, getting there. We are dealing with a highly transmissible, potentially deadly virus. For those that are infected, the risk of long-term problems and symptoms is genuine. So, given the choice of “infection” vs. “vaccination,” no one should intentionally choose to become infected.
Second—and this is so important—the “headline” is incomplete. In the body of the paper, the Israeli researchers say that previously infected individuals who ALSO got vaccinated had a much higher level of protection, as demonstrated by lower rates of reinfection, hospitalization, or death than either other group.
Third, the numbers in this study are tiny. For example, a total of 34 hospitalizations were compared. And yes, five were among those previously infected, and 19 were previously vaccinated. While those numbers should make all of us question, they are just not big enough numbers to draw definitive conclusions.
In that same vein of numbers: the odds ratios (the likelihood that an outcome will be caused by an intervention) seem REALLY high. TOO high. I am not a statistician but it seems to me that even in the studies we find the most telling, the odds ratios are not so “good.” It makes me (and others) question the validity of some of this information.
Fourth, this was an observational study. PCR testing was not required. Mild and asymptomatic cases are most likely underreported.
Lastly, there are other studies, not yet peer reviewed, that come to the opposite conclusions, that vaccination provided a greater level of protection than infection.
All that said, here are what I consider to be the most salient points:
1. If you have not yet had CoVID and are trying to decide between getting CoVID intentionally and getting vaccinated, I would choose the latter.
2. If you have already had CoVID, while you may have some protection, still getting a vaccine greatly amplifies that protection.
We need to keep our eyes on the following facts too: Currently, the vast majority of hospitalized people and almost all who die are unvaccinated. We have seen a shift in the ages of those who become seriously ill or die from CoVID. It is not the elderly any more. Why? Because those over 65 have the highest rate of vaccination.
Last week in JAMA, a paper was published that confirmed the safety of mRNA vaccines. In the first 21 days after immunization there was not an increased incidence of adverse outcomes compared to those who had received vaccines months before. Interestingly, Israel (at the same time—this week) was also responsible for the data that indicates THIRD vaccines proved to provide dramatic increases in immunity and protection from serious disease.
I can understand how people trying to sift through all of this information are confused. Yes, we need to keep reading, researching, and questioning. But, my plea would be to look beyond the screenshots when making a decision that could save a life—yours or someone else’s.
NOTE: COVID-19 is an evolving situation. This information is current as of the time of posting, but is subject to change rapidly.