On or about April 2021, the character of human immunity changed. It is when the prestigious Mayo Clinic decided the immunity acquired after COVID-19 infection is inconsequential. Before this paradigm shift, scientists believed exposure to infections resulted in powerful and enduring protection known as adaptive or acquired immunity. The adaptive immune system is, after all, a complex and integrated physiological marvel that protects the body by targeting threats with precision and accuracy.

The nation’s leading medical institution previously described on its website how survivors of the 1918 influenza pandemic (“Spanish Flu”) had immunity to the H1N1 influenza virus that caused an epidemic nearly a century later. In April, that significant historical account was deleted to indicate naturally acquired immunity has been rendered meaningless. We would have never known the date but for internet sleuths at the American Institute for Economic Research who reported it. Then again, momentous change happens abruptly and in the dark.

Public health leaders begat this new disregard for disease-acquired immunity because rational reasoning is not politically expedient in a pandemic. The NIAID Director Anthony Fauci therefore dismisses natural immunity to COVID-19 as weak and short-lived. And, the NIH Director Francis Collins claims it is limited in scope and cannot protect against viral variants.

Robust, broad, long-lived immunity

In fact, exposure to SARS-CoV-2 creates robust, broad and durable immunity. An observational study (Cell Reports Medicine, July 2021) showed that patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 develop long-lived immune responses from persisting antibodies and memory B and T cells. Further, the immunity is broad based and protects against SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2 variants to some degree. Other studies published in the Lancet (April 2021) and Nature (May 2021) confirm the antibody responses are long-lived.

Consequently, prior infection offers substantial protection against reinfection. A large Danish study (Lancet, March 2021) found reinfection occurred in less than 1% of COVID-19 cases. Analyses in Israel, Qatar, the UK and the U.S. displayed similarly rare rates of reinfection. Such immunity is not limited to mild-to-moderate cases. Researchers at the University of Missouri School of Medicine and MU Health Care determined that 0.7% of patients with severe COVID-19 contracted the virus again. Asthma and tobacco use were associated with reinfection in these instances.

Over 30 million people across the country have recovered from COVID-19. The prevalence of naturally acquired immunity, however, is greater than these numbers suggest. Scientists assessed SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in asymptomatic U.S. adults and discovered 15.9 million asymptomatic or undiagnosed COVID-19 infections had occurred as of Sept. 30, 2020. Recent serological surveys (that screen for COVID-19 antibodies) estimate undetected infections are four to six times as many as the diagnosed case count.

Politics corrupts pandemic response

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky diminishes the extent of natural immunity to COVID-19, while Fauci insists that the available data is not sufficient to inform policy measures. What is the purpose of discounting this potent immune defense possessed by millions? It makes mass vaccination the only means to achieve herd immunity, which has been the elusive end goal since March 2020. The experts like Collins and Fauci endorse indiscriminate vaccination, alleging the shots “do better than nature.” The heavy-handed focus on vaccines alone harks back to how political calculations — that of profit and power — have corrupted the pandemic response.

The politics of profit extends beyond the influence exerted by much-maligned Big Pharma. Collins revealed that the NIH owns a part of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine’s intellectual property and thus has a financial stake in it. The company received $6B in federal funds to develop the vaccine. The politics of power entails societal control with mandatory and capricious policies, together with time-tested divide-and-conquer tactics. In an example of the latter, the vaccinated are afforded special freedom to demonize others.

Now that we have identified how certain parties gain from disregarding natural immunity, let us consider the impact on those who have it. The naturally infected are not exempt from vaccine mandates by government or private employers, and must observe the restrictions on travel and event attendance that apply to unvaccinated persons. Many feel compelled to get injected. But does prior SARS-CoV-2 exposure affect the vaccine-generated immune response? What are the risks and benefits? And, to whom does one turn for answers?

Vaccine pain-gain analysis

Doctors have not been helpful. Opaque and inconsistent direction from public health authorities, along with concern to preserve one’s employment and licensure, has splintered medical consensus on whether COVID-19 survivors should take the vaccine. Dr. Monica Gandhi (University of California) infers from the data sets of past coronavirus epidemics that naturally acquired immunity to COVID-19 will likely last one’s lifetime, thereby making vaccination redundant. Immunologist Dr. Hooman Noorchashm strongly advocates against it on account of the vaccine’s “immunological danger” to the naturally infected.

Dr. Marty Makary (Johns Hopkins School of Medicine) advises that one shot of a two-dose vaccine should suffice, though it may not be necessary. He cites research by the Penn Institute of Immunology (Science Immunology, April 2021), which showed that the first dose produced peak antibody and memory B cell responses in COVID-19 recovered subjects. The second dose of the mRNA vaccine had no effect. Clinicians at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, demonstrated similar effects after the first dose (Nature Medicine, April 2021).

Notably, the L.A. team found that vaccine-induced side effects were more prominent in the previously infected after the first dose. A February 2021 global survey of vaccine recipients (26.6% of the 2002 respondents had recovered from COVID-19) indicated that past SARS-CoV-2 exposure led to an increased risk of post-vaccine adverse effects (fever, shortness of breath, fatigue and flu-like illness), local reactions and severe symptoms resulting in hospitalization.

The scientific risk-benefit considerations of COVID-19 vaccines aside, the naturally infected are hardly free to choose. There is only one choice and it will be forced on them by mounting economic and social pressures.

Meg Hansen lives in Manchester.

(5) comments

Mike from Worcester

Mayo Clinic:"Natural immunity to coronaviruses, such as those that cause colds, is not long-lasting, and reinfection is possible," says John O'Horo, M.D., an infectious diseases physician at Mayo Clinic.

"Recent studies have shown that so far COVID-19 induces robust natural immunity for at least one year. This immunity can be substantially boosted with vaccination and provides protection against COVID-19 vaccine variants of concern," says Abinash Virk, M.D., a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases physician. "Additionally, vaccinated persons have demonstrated longer immunity and lower rates of infection than those who were infected, suggesting the vaccines generate a more sustained immunity than natural infection alone."

Studies have shown that those who have had Covid are 2 1/2 times more likely to get reinfected if not vaccinated after getting Covid. The American Institute for Economic Research is led by a man who has gone on record in Forbes for being against Social Security. They are a 'subset' of the Bastiat Society. They boast of having 'plug in' talking points for publication and speakers for conservatives. The 'Institute' is the parent of the for profit American Investment Services. AIER is connected to The Progress Foundation out of Zurich, Switzerland.

The pursuit of herd immunity is a folly – so who's funding this bad science?

Links between an anti-lockdown declaration and a libertarian thinktank suggest a hidden agenda.

Earlier this month, in a wood-panelled room at a country estate in Massachusetts, three defiantly unmasked professors gathered around a large oak table to sign a declaration about the global response to the pandemic. One academic had flown across the Atlantic from Oxford; another had travelled from California. The signing ceremony had been carefully orchestrated for media attention, with a slick website and video produced to accompany the event, and an ostentatious champagne toast to follow.

You may not have heard of the “Great Barrington declaration” but you’ll likely have seen the headlines that followed it. Journalists have written excitedly about an emerging rift in the scientific community as the consensus around the most effective response to Covid supposedly disintegrates. The declaration, which called for an immediate resumption of “life as normal” for everyone but the “vulnerable”, fuelled these notions by casting doubt on the utility of lockdown restrictions. “We know that all populations will eventually reach herd immunity”, it stated.

Scientists were swift in their response. The declaration’s core assumption, that population immunity will be achieved by allowing life to go on as normal and shielding only the most vulnerable from the virus, is entirely speculative. The thrust of its argument is based on a false opposition between those who argue for lockdown and those who are against it, when in fact lockdowns are one of numerous measures that scientists have called for, and are seen as a short-term last resort to regain control.

And shutting away the most vulnerable as life continues as normal is not only inhumane, but impossible: by this measure, the carers, household members and frequent close contacts of vulnerable people would also need to isolate. Moreover, young people with pre-existing conditions they don’t yet know about can be equally susceptible, and “long Covid”, with its debilitating host of symptoms, affects people of different ages.

The truth is that a strategy of pursuing “herd immunity” is nothing more than a fringe view. There is no real scientific divide over this approach, because there is no science to justify its usage in the case of Covid-19. We know that when it comes to other coronaviruses, immunity is only temporary. The president of the UK’s Academy of Medical Sciences, in a detailed rebuttal, describes the declaration’s proposals as “unethical and simply not possible”.

It’s time to stop asking the question “is this sound science?” We know it is not. Instead, we should be more curious about the political interests surrounding the declaration. Within hours of its launch, it had seeded political and ideological impact disproportionate with its scientific significance. The hashtag #signupstartliving began trending on social media. Its three signatories were later received by Alex Azar, the US secretary of health and human services, and by Scott Atlas, recently appointed as Donald Trump’s health adviser, who tweeted on 8 October that “top scientists all over the world are lining up with the @realDonaldTrump #Covid_19 policy”. And on a call convened by the White House, two senior officials in Trump’s administration cited the declaration.

Was this ever really about science? When scientists disagree, we expect them to provide evidence for their position. Yet the declaration’s many contentious statements are unreferenced – and the manner of its launch seems designed to amplify publicity over substance. If anything, the tactics employed in this performance have serious implications for the public’s trust in scientists.

It is already clear that the declaration is being used to legitimise a libertarian agenda. Indeed, some authors have questioned if it was ever anything about health, or whether its motivations were always purely economic; as the professor of political economy Richard Murphy put it, the declaration was “the economics of neoliberalism running riot … revealing in the process its utter indifference to the interests of anyone but those who can ‘add value’ within that system”.

As we approach one of the most important elections in the history of western democracy (itself described as a referendum on lockdown), we should be asking who funded this piece of political theatre, and for what purpose. The American Institute for Economic Research (AIER), where the declaration was signed, is a libertarian thinktank that is, in its own words, committed to “pure freedom” and wishes to see the “role of government … sharply confined”.

The institute has a history of funding controversial research – such as a study extolling the benefits of sweatshops supplying multinationals for those employed in them – while its statements on climate change largely downplay the threats of the environmental crisis. It is a partner in the Atlas network of thinktanks, which acts as an umbrella for free-market and libertarian institutions, whose funders have included tobacco firms, ExxonMobil and the Koch brothers. Our questions to the AIER about its relationship to the three signatories went unanswered, but it has posted a number of articles about the declaration and herd immunity on its website. Meg is a Republican running for office.

John K.

So you counter a blizzard of cited studies and the viewpoints of multiple experts with a single copy-and-paste novel? Poor technique, Mike. Instead of looking at the actual credentials of the signatories to Great Barrington (which includes over 44,000 medical professionals), or considering whether their proposals make sense, you level a proxy attack by way of criticizing a funder.

Never mind that the strategy advocated by Great Barrington is very similar to Sweden's approach to the pandemic. Sweden never locked down and never masked their children; their case and fatality numbers (per million) not only beat the US, but their current trends are among the best in the developed world, with cases and deaths way down relative to other major nations. (Herd immunity, anyone?) Not surprisingly, no one talks about Sweden anymore--after all, a success story might dispel the pandemic of fear.

Mike from Worcester

Yup!. Garbage in garbage out. You keep searching for nonsense and you will find it. Your sources have already decided before they look. And this is boring. You will keep misinforming for god knows what reason. I will keep relying on science and my 30+ years as an RN, RNC, CCRN, ethics committee, Etc.

John K.

Sweden: www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/sweden/

United States: www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/

Brought to you by the same "garbage source" that supplies the New York Times, the UK government, the UN, and others: https://www.worldometers.info/about/. (Not to mention that they pretty much nail Vermont's data, as well.) But of course none of that compares to "Mike from Worcester." Perhaps you should seek an advisory role somewhere.

Mike from Worcester

I spent my career in the ICU helping people. Jobs like that seem to go to tRumputiners and GQP. I react to bad info. I view it as a duty, an obligation, not to make points, as many do.

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