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While it has become a fact that vaccines have performed drastically worse during the Omicron era, a recent meta-analysis accounting for dozens of studies reveals that natural immunity offers better protection against reinfection, symptomatic infections, and severe disease from all COVID-19 variants than all the COVID vaccines. In addition, natural immunity offered the advantage of reducing viral rebound compared with full vaccination.
Natural Immunity Performs Better Against All Variants
Vaccines belong to a group of drugs called prophylactics, meaning that they are meant to prevent disease. However, that classification is not limited to vaccines but also refers to medication, regular health screenings, and when it comes to reinfection, a previous infection.
For a virus like SARS‑CoV‑2 that would inevitably become endemic or as seasonal as the flu, a vaccine with a specific immunogen as a core component could never provide long-term protection, given that the virus is very likely to mutate.
As the jabs are not effective at preventing infection, the promotional narrative has shifted toward marketing a vaccine that can prevent severe disease. We all saw the 95 percent efficacy billboards and the promotion posters urging citizens to get fully vaccinated. For many, getting vaccinated was not a matter of choice, as the alternative would otherwise impede work, school, and even going to the movies or out for dinner.
However, these mandates often overlooked the effectiveness of preventing reinfection and disease progression via a prior infection. A recent large-scale meta-analysis (pdf) shows that a previous infection was quite effective against reinfection, as well as symptomatic or severe disease, using data collected from 56 studies from over 19 countries.
The data in the above figure indicate that prior infection of COVID offers significantly high levels of protection against reinfection (over 80 percent), symptomatic infection (over 82 percent), and severe disease (over 78 percent) for the original strain and the Alpha, Beta, and Delta variants. The protection effectiveness dropped for Omicron variants, down to 44 percent and 45 percent for reinfection and symptomatic infection. But the effectiveness against severe diseases was still above 80 percent for Omicron.
The data above are just the average protection efficacies calculated from different studies. The significance of the protection effectiveness manifested even more strongly in terms of the slower waning of protection when compared to the protection offered by the various vaccines.
The data above also only describe the average protection efficacy provided by a previous infection. What is more significant is that the protection offered by a previous infection lasts much longer than that of a vaccine. The data in Figures 2–4 below show the comparison of vaccine effectiveness up to 40 weeks following inoculation versus the effectiveness of prior infection up to 80 weeks upon the last infection.
The data in Figure 2 compare protection offered by a prior infection with that offered by multiple major vaccines on the market: Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and the mRNA vaccine boosters.
The result shows that the protection offered by a previous infection against reinfection lasts significantly longer at a higher rate compared to many other vaccines as well as their boosters. Even though the Omicron variant is a game changer for the efficacy of both vaccines and natural immunity, the protection offered by a prior infection still stays above 25 percent 80 weeks after infection while, for example, the efficacy of the Moderna vaccine drops to single digits 40 days after vaccination.
Similar observations are illustrated in the two figures below in terms of protection against symptomatic infection (Figure 3) and severe disease (Figure 4). What this tells us remains unchanged: Natural immunity offers significantly more and longer-lasting protection than any other vaccine or vaccine-booster combination on the market today, for all SARS-CoV-2 variants.
There are some limitations in this meta-data analysis. For example, the study did not specify which viral variant infected the patients who were included in the previously infected group. Another issue with the data is that it does not include enough information on some vaccines like Johnson & Johnson or AstraZeneca. However, the data clearly state that a prior COVID infection is much more effective at preventing reinfection and severe disease than the vaccines are.
The data collected in this meta-data study came from different studies in many countries and were published throughout the past few years. This means at least a few scientists were well aware of how potent natural immunity was, especially after the emergence of Omicron. This meta-analysis simply made the point very clear.
However, the public has observed that pandemic-related public health policies neglected these observations and strongly favored vaccination campaigns, with vaccination mandates for even those protected by natural immunity. For many government health agencies, vaccination appears to be the only source of immunity or protection against COVID considered valid.
In reality, government health agencies have become the strongest marketing and sales agents for Big Pharma’s vaccine manufacturers. Is this in alignment with evidence-based medicine and public health? Or might it be driven by commercial interests and an industrial complex?
What the data also show is that Omicron changed the landscape of the pandemic. The efficacy for all vaccines and even prior infection dropped drastically, yet these variants do not really cause severe disease, which is perhaps the silver lining. Until today, we have no idea why waves come and go or how to predict the next variant. The scientific world’s understanding of the virus is still rather limited as it is unable to answer crucial questions.
The Virus Rebounds Among the Fully Vaccinated
Vaccines have become an increasingly popular answer to the diseases we face today. However, our understanding of vaccines is rather limited in scope. One example of this is how vaccination is associated with undesired consequences such as adverse events, side effects, negative efficacy, immune exhaustion, etc.
Coming as a bit of a surprise, the latest findings of a Hong Kong study (pdf) show that viral rebound has become another subject of concern among vaccinated who are treated with antivirals.
Viruses are generally considered nonliving entities that rely on the host to replicate. The quantity of virus that is present in the bloodstream, or the viral load, indicates to what degree the virus has infected the host and is usually a sign of how the body is doing against the infection.
Viral loads are measured by cycle threshold, or CT value, which is how many times a machine needs to perform polymerase chain reactions (PCR) on the patient sample such that the virus reaches a certain concentration. In general, a lower CT value indicates a higher viral load in that specimen, and a higher CT value indicates a lower viral load.
Antivirals commonly used to treat COVID, such as Paxlovid developed by Pfizer or molnupiravir, inhibit the virus in one way or another to help our own immune systems ward off infection. However, the Hong Kong study published in The Lancet shows that there has been a significant viral rebound after antiviral treatment was administered among the fully vaccinated.
On one hand, Paxlovid is a rather successful drug in terms of its ability to help against COVID-19 in patients who are not fully vaccinated. However, its effect against the disease seems to be drastically impaired in individuals who are fully vaccinated. The virus effectively rebounds after about 10 days post-treatment, meaning that the virus makes a comeback five days after the treatment series has ended.
Treatment with molnupiravir did not show a similar viral rebound problem, which is probably due to the differing mechanisms molnupiravir uses to inhibit viruses. While Paxlovid targets the viral protease, it is not as effective as molnupiravir in inhibiting viral replication. In this study, the full vaccination standard was achieved by administering either two doses of mRNA vaccines or three doses of the Chinese Sinovac vaccines. But how does vaccination affect the viral rebound after antiviral treatment?
Full vaccination seems to exhaust the immune system, making viral clearance not as effective as needed. Therefore, in the study, when the antiviral treatment ended and the viral load rebounded, it could be an indication that those individuals did not manage the virus as effectively as possible.
What is the message that nature is trying to tell us with this pandemic? COVID-19 has disrupted the world for the past few years and a tremendous number of people have been severely affected by it. However, these methods of intervention that agencies have employed seem to have rather limited effects.
As the pandemic winds down, it is time to look back on what has motivated these prevention measures and analyze whether they were really executed in our best interest. Are our manmade methods really a force that can match those of Mother Nature?
One clear picture here is that we humans need to stay humble and accept the limitations of our knowledge. We can never develop egotism like the Chinese Communist Party that boasted its victory against the virus via implementing extreme zero-COVID policies.
We did not defeat the pandemic, nor did we defeat the virus. We are under God’s mercy to survive the pandemic.
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