Some Michigan Hospitals Allow Naturally Immune Employees To Work: No Vaccine Required

In Brief

  • The Facts:
    • Spectrum Health will grant temporary vaccine mandate exemptions to employees who can provide proof of COVID-19 recovery.

    • Their exemption policy is subject to change as further science emerges.

  • Reflect On:
    • Why has it taken so long to acknowledge natural immunity when science has suggested it is strong for over a year?

    • Should COVID recovery be an option on vaccine passports?

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Spectrum Health has announced that it will grant temporary exemptions from its employee vaccine mandate to individuals who can provide proof of naturally acquired immunity to COVID-19. Spectrum Health is a large health system with teams of nationally recognized doctors, and is a provider and network of hospitals and other healthcare facilities in Southwest and West Michigan

The Detroit News explains,

The west Michigan hospital system, which is in the process of merging with Southfield-based Beaumont Health, will grant an exemption to those who have a positive PCR or antigen test for COVID-19 plus a positive antibody test from within the past three months.

Spectrum is still recommending vaccination for people who have had a prior COVID infection, but the move comes after study results were published showing that natural infection can provide a durable and robust amount of protection for some people.

The policy is not set in stone, and will be subjected to updates if evidence shows that naturally acquired immunity is either waning, or on the contrary, lasts longer.

Spectrum has also announced that they will be considering religious and medical exemptions that will be approved or denied by a medical exemption committee.

According to the CDC, “Experts don’t know for sure how long this protection lasts, and the risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 far outweighs any benefits of natural immunity.”

The CDC in August said previously infected individuals in a Kentucky study who declined vaccination were more than twice as likely to be reinfected than the fully vaccinated.

A separate Cleveland Clinic study found employees who had tested positive for the virus and declined vaccination were not reinfected during a five-month period.  

This, however, begs the question, can we really rely on PCR tests to determine reinfection? How many of these infections are asymptomatic or that used cycle thresholds above 35?

In a letter to the editor published in the Journal of Infection, researchers explain that more than half of all “positive” PCR tests are likely to have been people who are not even infectious.” You can read more about PCR testing here.

As far as natural immunity goes, there is also strong science on the other side of the coin. For example, a large study out of Israel recently found that those who have been previously infected with COVID acquire more protection to variants than those who are fully vaccinated.

That being said, a recent study relevant to infection derived immunity compared to vaccine derived immunity from the UK. Effectiveness against symptoms in delta (full 2 doses vs infection) Pfizer/BioNTech: 86% Astrazeneca: 70% Infection derived: 83%.

An analysis of millions of coronavirus test results in Denmark found that people who had prior infection were still protected 6 months after the initial infection. Another study also found that individuals who recovered from the coronavirus developed “robust” levels of B cells and T cells (necessary for fighting off the virus) and “these cells may persist in the body for a very, very long time.”

Some scientists suggest that even a mild COVID infection may last a lifetime.

study published in March 2021 suggests that the majority of healthy adults in British Columbia, Canada, have immunity from COVID-19 despite the fact that some of them have never been infected with it.

Just as with the vaccine, if you’ve been infected with a variant it may not be as severe compared to someone who hasn’t been infected.

Dr. Daniela Weiskopf, Dr. Alessandro Sette, and Dr. Shane Crotty from the La Jolla Institute for Immunology analyzed immune cells and antibodies from almost 200 people who had been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 and recovered.  The researchers found durable immune responses in the majority of people studied. Antibodies against the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, which the virus uses to get inside cells, were found in 98% of participants one month after symptom onset. As seen in previous studies, the number of antibodies ranged widely between individuals. But, promisingly, their levels remained fairly stable over time, declining only modestly at 6 to 8 months after infection.

Virus-specific B cells increased over time. People had more memory B cells six months after symptom onset than at one month afterwards. Although the number of these cells appeared to reach a plateau after a few months, levels didn’t decline over the period studied.

Levels of T cells for the virus also remained high after infection. Six months after symptom onset, 92% of participants had CD4+ T cells that recognized the virus. These cells help coordinate the immune response. About half the participants had CD8+ T cells, which kill cells that are infected by the virus.

 Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who serves on the board of Pfizer, told CNBC on Wednesday.

“The immunity conferred by natural infection seems to be robust and seems to be durable. We know it lasts at least six months, probably longer,” the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration said on Squawk Box…My hunch is it’s not going to last in perpetuity. At some point, those individuals are going to need to get vaccinated.”

It’s well known know that immunity from the vaccines wanes after around 5 or 6 months, which is why health policy continually suggests more vaccinations.

There is also a lot of data showing that people ending up in hospitals are mostly made up of the unvaccinated, but there seems to be conflicting information everywhere you look.

There have been many articles within mainstream media regarding the CDCs claim that 99% of COVID deaths are amongst unvaccinated. In this episode of our Setty Report we explore the source of these numbers, what this says about the effectiveness of the vaccine, and explore what this means in terms of actual risks for the unvaccinated.

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