Good news on natural immunity

Winter has passed the midpoint.  The “full blown” phase has over. People are saying the exact same thing about the Pandemic as a whole, not just the latest wave.

When we reach an ending we can look back and see what work we have just done,

And we can look forward to the promise of what we are getting ready to begin.

The pseudo-controversy on natural immunity

Mounting evidence that natural immunity to COVID persists is important to acknowledge.

In recently published data, researchers in Qatar found that Omicron evades natural immunity more than past strains, but a past COVID infection still has robust protection against severe disease. In other words, reinfection packs a less intense punch.

“Reinfection often occurs with negligible symptoms and high Ct values, indicating reduced epidemiologic significance,” the authors explained.

In other words, natural immunity provides important lasting protection and is a critical factor in what will bring the end of the Pandemic.

Additionally, a group of Johns Hopkins doctors just published a large study on natural immunity in JAMA. They found that COVID antibodies persisted for nearly 2 years after infection. Moreover, 99.3% of unvaccinated people who had COVID (confirmed with a +  test) had circulating antibodies.

In the words of one of the authors, Dr Marty Mackary:

“This study has several implications for Covid policy:

  1. Employers seeking to recognize natural immunity can rely on a prior Covid postive test (that’s how Israel and many other countries do it).
  2. Don’t try to get the infection, but if you had it and recovered, you can feel good about your immune protection (A CDC study found natural immunity is more protective than vaccination alone).
  3. We need to re-instate workers fired with natural immunity for not complying with a vaccine mandate.
  4. Instead of referring to the “vaccinated and unvaccinated,” a more medical precise lexicon is the “immune and non-immune.”
  5. Respect (do not rush to judgment) those who are unvaccinated. They may have a good reason — they may have strong natural immunity and a medical reason to avoid vaccination or avoid the 2nd or booster dose in the setting of natural immunity. Similarly, no not criticize or mock those who continue to wear a mask–they may have a good reason such as living with someone vulnerable or had a recent exposure and are respectful of others they could pass the virus (or any virus) on to.”

Dr Mackary has long provided an important voice in the national debate, around natural immunity and elsewhere.

Policy makers in the US have been reluctant to laud natural immunity, even in the face of large amounts of evidence for some time showing protection. Some observers of medical policy have speculated the doubt-raising has been means to the ends of modifying behavior, specifically to discourage the idea of intentional COVID spreading efforts to gain immunity. I agree that intentional spread of COVID is a bad idea. There are too many wild cards with COVID to do that.

But now that we have a lot more natural immunity, through Omicron and two years of COVID, it’s important to acknowledge that natural immunity is robust and persists and can be trusted.

Sometimes certain facts must be downplayed to get a public health outcome, it would appear. Policy is important, but I’m glad I’m not in the business of crafting policy to influence behavior. It seems complicated. I’d rather just learn the facts and apply them. 

As a holistic doctor I have a lot of trust and respect for the human body, even in illness. Often illness becomes less confusing when viewed through a bigger lens. Illness can have many roots but it often is the body’s attempt to balance something that is out of line. I always try to put effort to seeing the wisdom of the larger system. I believe in order and think that everything is infused with meaning, if we can only see it. That has made it hard to come to terms with policies which raise doubt about the immune system’s capacity to adapt and learn and be relevant.

We can be reassured that if we are smart with the toxins to which we are exposed, and we have good movement habits and good relations, we can control a large portion of our lives, including health and illness, whether that means prevention or living with illness.

And finally

(More Good News) Covid numbers:

  • The Berkshire case load  dropped another 30%over the week. 700 cases over this last week after 1,000 cases last week after a peak of almost 2100 positive cases a few weeks ago.
  • The Massachusetts 7 day average case incidence is down to 2K, a 33 % drop from last week.
  • Nationally, the seven-day-average plunged to under 200K this week after being 350K last week — a more than 40% drop