HomeLifestyleHealth & FitnessHow strong your immunity is against Omicron variant? Professor explains

How strong your immunity is against Omicron variant? Professor explains

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Scientists, public health authorities, lawmakers, and the general public have been debating for months whether earlier SARS-CoV-2 infection — dubbed “natural immunity” — provides COVID-19 protection similar to vaccinations.

The answer is difficult, but studies show that getting vaccinated and then boosted is the best approach to protect yourself against the Omicron type of coronavirus. While an infection on top of that is undesirable, it does provide further protection.

According to new findings, “natural” COVID-19 protection is dependent on a number of factors, including when the infection occurred, the type involved, whether or not someone has been boosted, and the overall health of their immune system.

“The question about natural versus vaccination immunity is an important one,” says Professor Monica Gandhi, from the University of California, adding, “The CDC showed that up to the Delta surge, no doubt, natural immunity is likely as protective or more protective even than your two-dose vaccines.”

Professor was referring to research published two weeks ago in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The same report was cited by Republican senators this week when they introduced the “Natural Immunity Transparency Act,” claiming that the CDC data “demonstrated natural immunity was 3-4 times as effective in preventing COVID-19 compared to vaccination.”

However, this claim requires further explanation. In 2021, the CDC looked at COVID-19 instances in California and New York, which together account for around 18% of the US population. The data was gathered between May 30 and November 20, 2021, before and during the Delta wave. The study found that case rates were lowest for those who were vaccinated and had never been infected with COVID-19 before to Delta, which became prevalent in late June and July 2021. However, by early October, when Delta was in charge, the situation had shifted. Case rates were much lower among both unvaccinated and vaccinated people with past illnesses at the time, implying that natural immunity was superior to vaccinations at the time.

It’s worth noting, however, that the CDC study was done at a period when many people’s vaccine-induced immunity was waning and before the introduction of the highly transmissible Omicron strain. Furthermore, most people in the United States were not yet eligible for booster doses, which are thought to provide the best protection against Omicron.

In general, pre-Omicron research support the idea that infection-induced immunity and vaccine-induced immunity provide equivalent levels of protection. Vaccines, on the other hand, are preferable for a variety of reasons, according to Gandhi. Notably, immunizations are free, safe, and rapid, but contracting COVID-19 with significant dangers, such as prolonged COVID, hospitalization, and death. Gandhi stated, “It’s just safer.”

She also stated that natural immunity varies greatly from person to person, based on a variety of parameters such as age, overall immune system strength, the severity of the COVID case, and the variant that infected them.

“What happens with natural infection is that if you have a mild infection, you may not mount the strong cellular immune response that you need to fight it in the future,” Gandhi explained. Vaccines, on the other hand, have been subjected to extensive testing and have been found to trigger a strong immunological response. Most scientists think that a vaccine is a better strategy to safeguard the population because it is more quantitative, predictable, and dependable.

Another disadvantage of depending on natural immunity is that Omicron has supplanted Delta as the dominant type, and Omicron is more transmissible and capable of eluding immune protection triggered by vaccinations and past infections.

The Omicron variant, according to Shane Crotty, a virologist and professor at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology, “changed everything.”

“Omicron is looking so different from the other variants that just infection alone might not be giving you great antibodies against the other variants because it looks so different,” he told Yahoonews.

It’s still unclear how much immunity an Omicron infection will provide, as well as how long that protection will last and whether it will apply to future variants.

People who have had a breakthrough illness are likely to be the most protected from infection and hospitalization at the present, according to the epidemiological statistics available, Crotty added. This includes those who have had an infection followed by a vaccine, or vice versa.

“Data by tons of labs shows that those people make really broad neutralizing antibodies,” the professor added. “Their antibodies recognize every possible variant and even distant viral species, but they also make really high levels of those antibodies.”

People who fall into this category have “hybrid immunity” or “super immunity,” which means they are immune to both illness and vaccination. According to a CDC study, individuals who are fully immunized after recovering from COVID-19 have twice the protection of those who do not.

Experts caution that this does not indicate that people should intentionally strive to infect themselves with the coronavirus in order to increase their protection against COVID-19, as there are substantial health risks involved.

People who have been boosted have a particularly high level of protection against Omicron. “It’s pretty amazing three doses of the same vaccine, which is just against the ancestral strain. Your immune system is so clever. It’s seeing that old version of the spike protein basically, and the first two times it sees it, it makes neutralizing antibodies against the ancestral strain and a couple of variants, but not Omicron, but just seeing that same vaccine the third time, and now you make neutralizing antibodies against Omicron,” according to Crotty.

Recent CDC studies have found that a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccination greatly reduces a person’s risk of hospitalization from the Omicron variant, underscoring the importance of a third shot. One of the CDC reports, which examined 259 hospitals and 383 emergency departments from late August to early January, discovered that a third dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine was 90% effective at preventing hospitalization and 82% effective at preventing emergency department and urgent care visits.

Despite the proof that a third dose is effective, many Americans have been unwilling to get their booster shots. This is unfortunate, according to Gandhi, because boosters could be the key to returning to normalcy, and individuals who have not been boosted or vaccinated are more vulnerable to Omicron and future versions.

“What we need to get through this time is immunity … so even if you’ve been actually infected, I really would recommend at least one dose of a vaccine,” Gandhi added.

Image Credit: Getty

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