NEW ORLEANS — If you've decided that you don't need a COVID vaccine because you were infected with the virus in the past, some new information may change your mind.
Immunity from the COVID vaccine versus immunity from the COVID natural infection: which protects better? We're finally getting answers from science. Tulane Microbiology and Immunology expert Dr. James McLachlan, helps us sort out a study from the University of California Irvine.
First, the mRNA technology in the two-dose vaccines gives us better, more consistent protection than the virus does, against those spike proteins, so the virus doesn't get inside our cells and multiply.
Next, that second dose helps.
“It sort of reminds your immune system of what it's supposed to do, and it actually makes that a better response. It increases how well your immune system can respond,” said Dr. James McLachlan, an Associate Professor at the Tulane School of Medicine.
The vaccine also appears to be delivering results now and against future strains.
“And it looks like it's highly protective, and it's protective at least against hospitalization and death, against most of the variants that have come out so far,” he added.
And it appears to give results against spread of the virus.
“If you get the vaccine, and you're fully vaccinated, it seems unlikely that you can get infected or transmit that to other people,” said Dr. McLachlan.
As for the natural virus, it appears you have antibodies for at least a year, but they're fading through time.
“So as that wanes, you lose that antibody response. That immunity can no longer be protective. You may be able to get sick again and may end up in the hospital.”
An Italian study shows people who got COVID, then got the vaccine three months later, mounted the most robust protection.
When asked if he thinks all of us, down the road, will most likely need a booster, Dr. McLachlan replied, “Yes I do.” And added, “It's an incredibly effective vaccine. I haven't seen anything quite like it. It's remarkable and it really is good mostly at preventing infection, and it's really pretty good at preventing even you noticing you're infected.”
So it appears scientists may have designed a way to make the immune system nature gave us, work even better.
The study was done with people who had either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, compared to people who recovered from the COVID infection.