Natural immunity superior to childhood infection vaccination: study

Children with natural immunity were better protected against COVID-19 infection and hospitalization than children who had been vaccinated, according to a new study.

Children ages 5 to 11 with protection after infection, or natural immunity to an infection with Omicron or a subvariant, and no vaccination had 88.4 percent protection against reinfection, researchers in North Carolina found. That was compared to 59.7 percent protection against Omicron from a primary series of a messenger RNA vaccine, or two doses of vaccine from Pfizer or Moderna, among the uninfected.

Protection remained higher over time through month eight, when protection against natural immunity among the unvaccinated was estimated at 18.8 percent and protection against vaccination at 22.5 percent.

Fifty percent effectiveness is considered the threshold for an effective vaccine, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization, but the effectiveness of the injections only stayed above that bar for one month, the researchers found.

A monovalent booster, or a discontinued booster, increased protection for those vaccinated, including children with a previous infection, by only 24.4 percent after one month, falling to 19.3 percent after five months. A bivalent booster, or one of the new shots cleared in Fall 2022, increased protection by 76.7 percent after one month, but shielding dropped to 47.3 percent on top of the original series after one more month.

Researchers have not provided separate estimates for the naturally immune and unvaccinated, and the vaccinated and infected, against hospitalization and death.

They estimated the natural immunity for the 5 to 11 group against hospitalization and death at 87.5 percent at one month, compared to 73.3 percent of a primary series. At three months, natural immunity was estimated to be 83.8 percent protection versus 39.3 percent from vaccination; after six months, natural immunity was set at 76.2 percent, compared to 2.9 percent before vaccination.

While the vaccines are approved for the prevention of COVID-19, they have gotten progressively worse at preventing infection. Authorities have moved to promoting it as a tool to prevent serious illness, but that protection has also fallen short against Omicron and its subvarieties, field data and studies show.

Declining effectiveness led not only to the approval of boosters with the same formulation as the primary series, but later to the approval without clinical data of new boosters targeting the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of Omicron for all 6 Americans months old and older.

The North Carolina researchers drew on the North Carolina COVID-19 Surveillance System, which contains test data and COVID-related hospitalization and death information, as well as the COVID-19 Vaccine Management System, which tracks vaccination records. The study focused on North Carolina residents ages 11 and under, from Oct. 29, 2021, to Jan. 6, 2023. They estimated the effectiveness of vaccination and natural immunity against infection, hospitalization, and death.

Researchers have not provided estimates of the booster’s effectiveness against hospitalization and death. They said there was only one hospitalization and no deaths after receiving a booster dose.

The study population was primarily unvaccinated because most children in the United States have not received a vaccine.

0–4 year olds

Data from children up to 4 years of age were also analysed.

Protection against Omicron infection against re-infection in all children was estimated at 83.1 percent after one month. It was linked to 55.7 percent one month after two doses of a vaccine among those uninfected. After five months, the first was 69.6 percent and the last was 58.6 percent.

Natural immunity in the youngest age group after Omicron infection was estimated to be 63.3 percent against hospitalization and death one month later, remaining above 50 percent at 10 months.

Researchers included both the vaccinated and non-vaccinated in the naturally immune group and did not separately estimate the protection enjoyed by the unvaccinated and naturally immune.

Researchers did not estimate the effectiveness of a primary series or boosters in the population against hospitalization and death.

The study was published as a preprint on Jan. 19.

Researchers said the study found that “prior SARS-CoV-2 infection elicited strong immunity against future infection, although immunity gradually declined over time” and that “omicron infection elicited strong immunity in both vaccinated and non-vaccinated vaccinated children.” SARS-CoV-2 causes COVID-19.

The researchers also said the results showed that vaccination was “effective against Omicron infection, hospitalization and death, although effectiveness decreased over time” and that boosters “were effective”.

“Our study showed that the additional benefits of vaccination were comparable between previously infected and uninfected children,” Dan-yu Lin, a professor in the University of North Carolina’s Department of Biostatistics, told The Epoch Times via email.

“Serious side effects are very rare. The benefits of vaccination outweigh the risk of side effects,” he added. The study did not evaluate vaccine safety or COVID-19 symptoms, and Lin declined to provide evidence for the risk-benefit statement.

Limitations of the study include researchers erroneously believing that Pfizer’s primary series for children ages 0 to 4 is only two doses. It’s actually three doses (pdf), because a two-dose regimen failed to elicit an adequate immune response, according to Pfizer. The third dose is a bivalent from the end of 2022.

Zakaria Stieber

Zachary Stieber is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times in Maryland. He covers American and world news.

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