Dr. Joe McLaughlin, the chief epidemiologist for the State of Alaska, took part in a Sept. 2 Zoom meeting with reporters in which he acknowledged that there are new studies showing that natural immunity to COVID may be better than vaccinations.

The studies are pre-print, meaning they have not yet undergone full peer review, McLaughlin said.

“But they are looking at head-to-head comparison of vaccine breakthrough cases versus repeat infections among people who had prior COVID infection,” McLaughlin noted. “And what some of these studies are finding is that prior infection may be as effective as vaccine or slightly more effective as vaccine at preventing subsequent infection.”

That doesn’t mean McLaughlin is going to stop pushing Alaskans to get vaccinated. Immediately after acknowledging that natural immunity may, in fact, provide better protection than COVID shots, he argued that it would still be better to get the vaccine rather than wait to get infected and achieve natural immunity.

the risk of suffering from COVID-19 symptoms was 27 times higher among the vaccinated, and the risk of hospitalization was eight times higher.

“Is it better to get vaccinated and prevent COVID infection through vaccination or is it better to just go ahead and allow yourself to get infected – not get vaccinated?” he said. “And the answer is clearly that it is much better to get vaccinated because if you just allow natural infection to occur, you’re putting yourself at increased risk for lots of serious adverse health consequences including hospitalization, ICU stay and potentially death.”

McLaughlin did not cite the exact studies he was referring to, but a new large-scale pre-print study from Israel has generated international interest because it shows that robust natural immunity develops after a COVID infection and provides far greater protection against the Delta variant than the Pfizer shot.

According to the study, people infected naturally with COVID were much less likely than those who are never infected (and yet vaccinated) to contract the Delta strain, develop symptoms from it, or wind up in the hospital with complications.

The study utilized the medical records from tens of thousands of Israelis between June 1 and Aug. 14, making it the largest real-world study comparing natural and vaccine induced immunity to COVID. Posted on medRxiv, it uses the database of Maccabi Healthcare Services, which enrolls millions of Israelis. It’s major finding was that people who were vaccinated (but never infected) were six to 13 times more likely to get re-infected than those who were unvaccinated but previously infected with COVID. Additionally, the risk of suffering from COVID-19 symptoms was 27 times higher among the vaccinated (but never infected), and the risk of hospitalization was eight times higher.

Click here to read the full text of the study.

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Alaska’s chief epidemiologist acknowledges study showing natural immunity is better than COVID vax

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.