COVID-19 vaccines have been a great blessing to save the pandemic from a worse turn than it already is. While we are still a long way from reaching all of the coronavirus vaccines, there are already new concerns about their diminishing immunity. Variants, antibody shedding, and the virus that doesn’t seem to spread further increase our susceptibility to the virulent virus in circulation.
Coronavirus: Natural Immunity Or Vaccines That Protect You Longer?
At the same time, there are also new considerations about the immunity that natural infection grants. As infection rates continue to rise, some believe that high exposure can not only slow the virus down, but also provide sufficient immunity that is more protective than previously known. But which one of them offers better protection against viruses? Is it worth going without a vaccination if you have high natural immunity?
Natural vs. Vaccine Driven Immunity: What’s Different?
Natural immunity is that associated with exposure to a pathogen, or in this case a virus. During the recovery phase, the immune system actively fights against the eradication of the virus, remembering traces of the infectious pathogen that help to form necessary antibodies to protect the body from future infection. Also known as innate immunity, it does not require sensitization to the antigen and is considered to be the natural means by which the body builds a protective response.
In comparison, vaccine-directed immunity, also known as artificial immunity, is a means by which the body’s immune system is “trained” to trigger a fertile immune response and produce immunity that will last for the foreseeable future. This is done by administration or forcible introduction into some form of antigen (similar to the original target spike protein or a harmless piece of the spike protein) that is clinically isolated and corrected in laboratories. As soon as the antigen is introduced (via the vaccination dose), it allows the body to recognize the infection pattern, to form sustainable antibodies, which then become active when the body encounters the actual pathogen again. Most of the COVID-19 vaccines currently available to us are built and work in a similar way to mimic the immune response.
How long does immunity last? When do antibodies decrease?
While immunity in itself is a broad concept and our bodies are actively protecting us in various ways, after some time immunity related to COVID-19 has decreased and a person has been exposed to risks again. From what we currently know, immunity and antibody response generated by natural exposure, and antibodies, tend to wear off after a while and not be as effective as they were before. However, it is currently questionable to what extent the effectiveness will decrease.
According to previous knowledge, immunity gained after fighting COVID-19 (natural immunity) remains at its peak 3-5 months after infection and then begins to decline. Decreasing antibody counts and low immunity carry risks. While vaccines have seen immune protection as maximizing, it has now been found to wane over time, but to be less effective. According to some research available on the subject, vaccine-directed immunity is best to protect a person for 6-9 months before it wears off.
It has also been shown that vaccination protection is less effective with the virus mutations in circulation. Not only does the virus become smarter when it mutates, it also gains the ability to outperform vaccine-directed antibodies and spread to organs more quickly.
Findings from your studies
There is also new urgent research suggesting that natural immunity to COVID-19 may last better and longer than we originally expected. Given that factors such as worrying variants, experimental methods by which vaccines have been made show concerns about the prevailing immunity, it has been shown that natural exposure can protect our bodies better and stronger than some vaccines.
A new study by researchers from Israel, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, found that people vaccinated with the Pfizer mRNA syringes (which were hailed as the best against COVID-19) were more likely to develop symptomatic COVID – 19 than those who had natural immunity. While the data does not show the number of antibodies present, it is based on real-world data from tens of thousands of volunteers, which makes it all the more believable.
Then how does a vaccine help? Are there any other advantages?
As experts say, vaccine-induced immunity can be more protective and long-lasting than natural immunity. However, this is not always the case, and there are also several ways to compare the immune protection of vaccines with that of a past infection.
The different factors, according to some experts, can make all the difference and give us an answer to the real benefit-risk ratio. For example, vaccines currently offer better, scientifically proven opportunities for many reasons. COVID-19 vaccines have been clinically tested to reduce the risk of serious illness, hospitalization and mortality, and in some cases also reduce transmission and long-term risk of COVID. While the delta variant continues to pose a threat and waves spread, there is ample anecdotal evidence to support this. These factors are absent with natural immunity acquired from prior infection.
Why vaccinations shouldn’t be missed even after you’ve recovered
Second, it is also known that, unlike natural infections, vaccines produce a uniform, more or less similar immune response, which means that everyone is equally protected. Natural COVID-19 infection can produce different immune responses depending on the type of infection a person contracted – asymptomatic, mild, moderate, or severe.
Hence, it is important to understand that for maximum protection and protection of billions from the worse risks of natural exposure, vaccines are desperately needed and also very useful, even as we have ever-changing guidelines on vaccination and supply shortages. Getting out or relying solely on natural immunity wouldn’t do the job.
Who has the highest level of protection?
While there is still much research into this, medical experts have suggested that natural recovery from the infection can increase the chances of protection and make the vaccine work better. Rethinking or prioritizing doses for those with no history can actually lead us to faster community-wide vaccination.
Some small studies have also observed that people who have recovered from the virus and received a dose of the vaccine have a higher immune response and protection rate than those who were not vaccinated or vaccinated with no history. This is because their bodies recognize the spike protein faster and make stronger, more protective antibodies.