Vaccines Plus Prior Infection Provided Best Protection From COVID: Study
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the best ways to protect ourselves has been a hot topic. Wearing masks, social distancing, washing hands, and then – at long last – getting a vaccine were all in our arsenal against COVID-19, but with inconsistent policies and enforcement applied across the country, it was difficult to tell what combination of safety practices offered the best protection – and guidelines and recommendations continued to evolve. More recently, as mask-wearing and social distancing relaxed while the new variants, Delta and Omicron, rose, guidelines seemed to change even more frequently.
At least for now, that uncertainty has come to an end with the release of a new study conducted on both the East Coast and the West Coast. In this study, researchers found that people who had been fully vaccinated and had a prior infection with symptomatic COVID-19 fared the best against the virus in the summer and fall of 2021.
That result may be unsurprising, but here’s something that is: In terms of protection, in second place were those who had previously experienced a symptomatic prior infection but who hadn’t received the vaccine, while those who had been vaccinated but not previously infected were the least protected of those three groups.
While the startling results may seem to bolster the argument for natural immunity for some people, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concludes that the unvaccinated should not take these results as proof they don’t need the vaccine. This is because the unvaccinated, when infected, are much more likely to experience severe disease, hospitalization and death due to the coronavirus. Because of this, immunity achieved naturally through infection is much more dangerous.
Additionally, one important caveat to this study is that the analysis was based on lab-confirmed tests. Because of this, the results don’t account for those who self-tested or chose to not get tested. Because those who choose to not get vaccinated are also less likely to get tested for infection, the study’s results may be skewed – even significantly.
It’s also worth noting that analysis of infection data over time points to the fact that these trends relate specifically to the more recent variants and represent a change in how infections happened prior to the Delta and Omicron variants. In the earlier days of the pandemic, following the release of vaccines for COVID-19, the vaccines offered greater protection over natural immunity. As the pandemic raged on, protection changed because the virus changed – and it can again. As the virus continues to mutate, it may do so in ways that diminish natural immunity, making vaccination all the more important going forward.
Here at Avail Hospital, we continue to battle COVID-19 every day and know firsthand that our patients fare far better when they have received the vaccine, so we encourage you to do everything you can to protect yourself and others. In the meantime, we’re still here and ready to care for you, always.