Mini-Throughput: Why “Natural Immunity” Isn’t All That Hot

Michael Siegel

Michael Siegel is an astronomer living in Pennsylvania. He blogs at his own site, and has written a novel.

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23 Responses

  1. InMD says:

    It’s certainly an interesting topic. I’ve had covid twice now, despite being vaccinated and twice boosted. While the peak of the virus has been relatively mild for me the after effects have been harder to deal with. When I got it in July it was 1 to 2 months before I felt right again. I’m a little over a month out from my second infection and my cardio has very noticeably still not returned to form, and I’m struggling to even run 3 miles. It’s been even tougher on my wife who is going on 6 months pregnant (thankfully there seems to be no impact there). Point being all of this is very believable. Even when you make a full recovery a viral infection really kicks your ass. My son has bounced back like a machine in each instance but I hope he doesn’t have to deal with too much more of it.Report

    • Timothy Evan in reply to InMD says:

      Vaccinations are a form of preventative medicine. You aren’t supposed to get the illness after you’ve been vaccinated. You are living proof that this vaccination is not working –as a vaccination–.

      Vaccinations that expect you to be boosted in less than 5 years (which is about the minimal time memory B-cells last) are not vaccinations. They are antibody-generators at best. And that can convey some short-lived immunity — but it’s more like being injected with donated plasma. You’re no longer using your adaptive immune system effectively.Report

      • CJColucci in reply to Timothy Evan says:

        Says who?Report

        • Timothy Evan in reply to CJColucci says:

          This is a basic primer on “why we think it is possible to become immune to COVID19 through infection by SARS-COV-2.” That it WAS an open research question is important. We do not develop solid immunity to all viruses (dengue is a particularly nasty case, where you get a worse outcome if you’ve been exposed previously to a different strain. Antigenic Original Sin plus antibody-dependent enhancement of the disease itself).Report

        • Timothy Evan in reply to CJColucci says:


          This seems like a pretty comprehensive review. Even with an immunologic response, they’re not confident that the meningococcus vaccine works for more than a year, due to the relative slowness to generate antibodies, and the fast incubation period of the disease.Report

        • Dark Matter in reply to CJColucci says:

          Both of his links strongly support vaccination. They do indeed talk about how normal vaccinations can have limited time frames. I see nothing in there that supports the concept that the covid vaccination “isn’t working”.Report

      • InMD in reply to Timothy Evan says:

        Seems stupid to even respond to something like this on the internet but whatever. It bought me mild cases where no one ended up in the hospital, and prevented me from taking acute care space from others. That alone is enough to make me feel like I did the right thing and for the record I’m feeling better every day. I literally wrote that comment from the squat rack.Report

      • I feel you, man. If it doesn’t make the virus bounce off your chest like Captain America’s shield repelling bullets, what’s the point even?Report

  2. Damon says:

    Prior to covid, I was rarely sick. I never took flu vaxes as I didn’t get sick. Once every 4-5 years maybe. Post covid vax, I’ve been six half a dozen times–@ three times a year….as a fully remote person. Same type of “sick” before and after covid…..Report

    • Dark Matter in reply to Damon says:

      I assume you’re older now than you were in the past.

      I’ve had covid. I’m fully remote. Close to no physical contact with people other than my daughter. Odds are good I got it sitting next to someone on a plane or at a wedding… but no one around me ever showed symptoms so I’ll never know.

      The transmission rate of this thing is crazy high.Report

      • Jared Kuskin in reply to Dark Matter says:

        Odds are you didn’t get COVID19. You probably contracted SARS-cov-2 into your sinus cavities, and your mucosal immunity triumphed. As COVID19 is a disease that sets in after your body has pretty much vanquished the virus, if you don’t get the exponential growth, you don’t get the disease (and the deadly lipid oxidation).

        As most things are, this is an oversimplification.

        The transmission rate is crazy high among the vaccinated — because they’re a one trick pony, and the virus has learned how to evade it. Good thing Omicron is so weak — the vaccinated are constantly passing it around.Report

        • Dark Matter in reply to Jared Kuskin says:

          I went to the doctor (for other reasons) and they tested me. Longer more exact test said it was Covid.

          That’s over and above being so tired I couldn’t watch the TV for a day or two and getting a cough for a month or two afterwards.Report

  3. Jaybird says:

    The argument that “natural immunity” is better than the covid shot struck me as baldly untrue on its face when I first qualified to get the shot but we went through Delta and Omicron and… well, we dropped the Greek letters, I don’t know what letter we should be on by now.

    It struck me as vaguely unhelpful to get boosted with Alpha despite the strain running around being some other Greek letter.

    “Natural Immunity”, however, gave “immunity” against a more recent strain than Alpha. And that’s the only reason that Natural would have been better.

    I’m glad I got my bivalent booster and it had protection against both Alpha and Omicron running around in there.

    I’m expecting to need another bivalent booster next year but if it still only protects against Alpha and Omicron, I’m going to need an explainer about why that’s still useful.Report

    • Dark Matter in reply to Jaybird says:

      If I’m attacked in my house, ideally I’d like to be able to shoot the attacker. Beating him to death with a frying pan is less than ideal but still easier than using my bare hands.Report

    • North in reply to Jaybird says:

      There is a significant biological cost your body pays for acquiring natural immunity that you generally don’t pay for acquiring immunity via vaccines. One can debate the relative efficacy of natural versus vaccinated immunities (and, bluntly, all the arguments I’ve seen for the former have been very feeble) but even if you grant the critics their vague substantive points and say “natural immunity is stronger” (which I don’t) the vaccinated immunity is “free” whereas the natural immunity is not.

      Kurzgesagt breaks it down here (with birds)!

      • Jaybird in reply to North says:

        I’m not arguing for not getting vaccinated, boosted, and then getting boosted with a bivalent booster.

        I think you should get vaccinated, boosted, and then get the bivalent booster.

        But Omicron is no longer the dominant strain. I don’t know why getting a second bivalent (Alpha+Omicron) booster will be useful against whatever the hell strain is going around in October.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

          Put another way, I got my Shingles Vaccine in two shots: one in October, one in February.

          If I said “I’m not worried about Covid, I got my Shingles Vaccine!”, wouldn’t you have the thought of something like “The Shingles Vaccine is not a Covid Vaccine, Jaybird!”

          And if I argued back against that point as if you were an antivaxxer, would you see that as a reasonable interpretation of your point?Report

          • Dark Matter in reply to Jaybird says:

            A different strain is not a different virus. You go to war with the army you have, not the one you wish you had.

            Now a really good question is why did it take Trump’s FDA 9 months to fully approve the first vaccines and Biden’s FDA years to not yet approve a replacement.Report

            • fillyjonk in reply to Dark Matter says:

              yeah, that’s why even though most years the flu vaccine is an imperfect match for the strains circulating, it’s still a good idea to take it. I’ve had people in the medical field (people whose opinions I respect and seem to know their stuff) say that even if you catch a DIFFERENT strain, you’ll be less sick.

              I think I’ve had that happen – had the flu shot in a bad-match year, got something later that season that was slightly worse than a typical cold but nowhere as bad as full blown flu, whereas people I knew without the vaccine were down for two weeks with something similar.

              It’s like a raincoat – if it’s really bucketing down, you’ll probably not stay completely dry, but at least you won’t be soaked to the skin. Add in an umbrella (booster?) and you’ll probably stay even dryer.Report

  4. Burt Likko says:

    We should celebrate the likes of Jonas Salk, Joseph Lister, and Norman Bourlag much more than we do.They have saved literally billions of lives.Report