One canard from the anti-vax throng is that contracting and surviving a disease will leave the person with immunity from further instances of the condition. While this might sometimes be true, dealing with the unpleasantness of the condition can be avoided altogether through vaccination. There is also the significant matter of a disease perhaps leaving a person with lifelong immobility from polio, or dead from the likes of Whooping Cough. The lifelong immunity the anti-vaxxers tout is desirable but is also available through vaccination. Asserting that immunity gained through disease contraction is superior to immunity via vaccination is to commit the naturalist fallacy.
This is a common trope from anti-vax and alternative medicine types and has found fertile ground among religious groups, which equate natural with their deity. Prolific skeptic blogger David Orski cited a c￼ommentator on the evangelical Christian network Victory TV who beamed, “I personally choose God-given natural immunity over the new experimental vaccine for the safety and protection of myself and my family.”
But even if this natural immunity were conferred via a god, goddess, or spirt, it still requires the person to suffer through the physical symptoms and mental anguish of the disease, it leaves the person at risk of follow-on complications, and thus cannot by any reasonable standard be considered superior to a solution whose greatest unpleasantness is usually 10 minutes of a sore arm. I had three rough hours the day after my second COVID vaccine dose, but compared to a multi-week hospitalization, ventilator hookup, or death, this experience was minor.
A vaccine preps the immune system by using a dead pathogen or protein so that ￼the body will respond efficiently if the genuine pathogen later enters the person. While contracting the disease and making it through might leave a person immune, there are issues with post-infection immunity that make vaccination, even after recovery from COVID-19, desirable.
For example, Gorski cited studies which showed that more than a third of COVID-19 infections result in zero protective antibodies. Another concluded that natural immunity fades faster than vaccine immunity, particularly after mild infection. A third found that natural immunity alone is but half as effective as natural immunity combined with vaccination.
As for the study form Israel which suggested that those receiving the Pfizer vaccine were 13 times as likely to be hit with the delta variant than those who had recovered from the coronavirus, it has yet to be peer-reviewed. Bypassing peer review and taking one’s claims straight to the public is usually a pseudoscience giveaway. Further, many key items from the study were buried.
Gorksi wrote, “You have to dig into the text to see that the absolute numbers of infections were quite low (for example, only 19 reinfections in one group) and actually do the math yourself to figure out that the breakthrough infection rates after vaccination were low. In model number one, the breakthrough infection rate was 1.5 percent; in model number two, it was 1.4 percent. This study actually showed that the Pfizer vaccine was quite effective. It also showed that those who had recovered from COVID-19 and were later vaccinated were much less likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19.”
So the numbers the anti-vaxxers found favorable were cherry-picked and highlighted, while the most significant results of the study were ignored. Naturally.