The huge disparity between immunity from natural infection and vaccine-induced immunity

In this June 2, 2021 article written by Sofia Tomacruz for Rappler, she reports on a recent statement from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) which warned against the use of antibody testing to measure protection against COVID-19 following vaccination.

In a House of Representatives health committee hearing, scientists and medical experts from DOST explained that antibodies only measure one type of immune response to the vaccine.

DOST Philippine Council Health Research and Development (PCHRD) Executive Director Jaime Montoya said that neutralizing antibody tests “only describes what we call the antibody-based immunity. There is also what we call the cell-based immunity”.

According to Montoya, the presence of antibodies “means that definitely you have some protection already” but it does not mean having the protection against a virus after getting vaccinated. He adds, “To say that you are actually protected already, that is another question because it only tells you that there are antibodies but we are not sure whether those antibodies actually neutralize the SARS-CoV-2”.

Dr. Michelle De Vera of the Philippine Society for Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology corroborated Montoya’s statements. She says, “The immune system is amazingly sophisticated so one measurement cannot totally measure the entire immune response of your system to the COVID virus”.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued similar advice. Their statement said, “Antibody testing is not currently recommended to assess for immunity to COVID-19 following COVID-19 vaccination or to assess the need for vaccination in an unvaccinated person…Post-vaccination serologic test results will be negative in persons without a history of previous natural infection if the test used does not detect antibodies induced by the vaccine”.

Editor’s Note: This article elicits a number of insights. First, it tells us that not everyone who receive the vaccine is able to develop neutralizing antibodies [this is evidenced by the testimony of Quezon 4th District Representative Helen Tan as presented in the article below, and as discussed in the article COVID ‘vaccine failure’ more likely if you have a weakened immune system]. This needs to be highlighted as proponents of the so-called vaccine passports are erroneously claiming that vaccine are the only way out of this crisis, but they are neglecting the reality that the vaccine may not actually work for some people.

Second, we need to highlight that antibodies are not the only means of protection. This reveals the fact that just a few months ago, these health organizations neglected to correct mainstream media companies when they reported that antibodies from natural infection wane after a few months. Why didn’t these health experts talk about cell-based immunity then, when they knew that this kind of immunity was robust and long-lasting? Having said that, we think it is important for people to remember this: yes, antibodies wane when the infection subsides, but the body will continue to remember the pathogen, and the immune system will have the capacity to protect us from the severe disease [long-lasting protection is a reality for more dangerous viruses like SARS-CoV and the Spanish Flu, read New study found pre-existing SARS-CoV-2 immunity in general population, and Researchers find life-long immunity to Spanish flu, can natural immunity to SARS-CoV-2 offer the same?].

Third, we want to reiterate what the experts said: there is a difference between antibody-based immunity and cell-based immunity. In the normal course of things, this antibody-based immunity wanes after some time because the threat has already been neutralized. However, studies are showing that the neutralizing antibodies produced by vaccines may not be as effective as the neutralizing antibodies created by natural immunity [also read Natural immunity triggered by COVID infection superior to vaccine-induced immunity]. But even if the antibodies wane, cell-based immunity from natural infection continues to protect us. Whereas cell-based immunity derived from vaccines can wane after a few months, as evidenced by the new push for booster shots[1]https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/06/science/covid-vaccine-boosters.html, cell-based immunity from natural infection does not, and can in fact protect us from future variants of SARS-CoV-2 [see Our immune system evolves to fight coronavirus variants and New study: T-cells induced by COVID infection can respond to new SARS-CoV-2 variants]. In fact, researches are showing that our immune system is so robust that even if it only encounters minuscule fragments of SARS-CoV-2, it can develop cell-based immunity [see T-cell immunity found in SARS-CoV-2 infected individuals and close contacts who never experienced detectable infection].

Why would anyone prefer a vaccine over natural immunity when it is clear from the science that immunity from natural infection is far more superior than vaccine-induced immunity? Do experts even know of the researches we have found on this website?

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