A health worker administers a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in Ghaziabad, India. (Sakib Ali /Hindustan Times)
A health worker administers a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in Ghaziabad, India. (Sakib Ali /Hindustan Times)

Immunity from infection or Covid-19 vaccine, which one lasts longer?

  • Disinformation campaigns to undermine public confidence in Covid vaccines have surged online and authorities have been facing an onerous task to fight vaccine hesitancy.
By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Kunal Gaurav, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JUN 22, 2021 06:24 PM IST

While governments around the world are trying to vaccinate the maximum number of individuals to provide immunity against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), many anti-vaccine advocates are discouraging people from getting vaccinated, arguing that immunity from infection is always stronger than vaccination. Covid cases have sharply declined in countries with high vaccination coverage but anti-vaxxers claim that such immunity may not last very long.

Melissa Floyd, a self-described "informed consent advocate" and co-host of "The Vaccine Conversation" podcast, wrote on Twitter that natural immunity from infection always lasts longer than the immunity induced by vaccines. “For the few [vaccines] that last 10-15 years, natural antibodies would have lasted a lifetime (or close to it). There has never been a pathogen where artificial immunity outperformed natural immunity,” tweeted Floyd.

Disinformation campaigns to undermine public confidence in Covid vaccines have surged online and authorities have been facing an onerous task to fight vaccine hesitancy. Quoting experts, USA Today said that both infection and vaccination are protective against coronavirus and scientists are yet to arrive at a conclusion whether vaccine-induced immunity lasts longer than the natural immunity given the limited time of virus’ existence.

“It is true that natural infection almost always causes better immunity than vaccines. Whereas immunity from disease often follows a single natural infection, immunity from vaccines usually occurs only after several doses,” says Children's Hospital of Philadelphia on its website. However, it highlights that the difference between vaccination and natural infection is the price paid for immunity, citing long-term effects and death due to infection.

A study conducted by a team of researchers from Rockefeller University and Weill Cornell Medicine in New York found that immunity among people who contract Covid-19 remains stable up from six months to a year, and they get even better protection when vaccinated. The findings, published in Nature, offer among the first concrete clues that immunity to the Sars-Cov-2 may be long-lasting.

Also Read | Immunity lasts at least a year after infection, gets stronger after jab: Study

Citing studies, virologist Sabra Klein told Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health that people who have been infected can benefit significantly from vaccination. On the question of vaccine-induced immunity and natural immunity, Klein stressed that vaccines are tested for their safety in ways that “we could never do with a natural viral infection.”

“With infection, you don’t know how bad it’s going to be. By not getting vaccinated, you’re rolling the dice. You may become severely ill. You may have to be hospitalized. You may die,” Klein added.

Highlighting the risk of long Covid, the virologist said that a teenage girl who got Covid didn’t have a lot of symptoms initially but now “she has all of the symptoms of long Covid”. “A year later, she is trying to maintain a somewhat normal teenage life with profound fatigue. She has never recovered fully from having Covid,” Klein was quoted as saying.

“The claim that immunity from infection is always stronger than immunity from vaccines is [partly false], based on our research. While natural immunity tends to last longer than vaccine immunity, experts say it depends on the pathogen,” said USA Today.

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