Table of Contents
Delta Variant and Natural Immunity vs. Vaccines
For a little while this summer it was looking as though we might be able to put most of the problems associated with the COVID-19 pandemic behind us. The vaccines were working great and even those who hadn’t been vaccinated were developing good levels of natural immunity following infection (although at a high cost with many suffering long-term injuries along with over 600,000 deaths in this country – and over 4.25 million deaths worldwide). After more than a year of suffering here, and worldwide, it looked as though “herd immunity” might soon be within our reach. Then came the “Delta Variant”, which started taking over as the most prominent variant around the world due to its ability to spread two or three times faster and cause infection much more quickly with an average viral load more than 1000x greater compared to those infected with the original coronavirus strain (Link). Infection is first detectable in people with the delta variant just four days after exposure, compared with an average of six days among people infected with the original strain of SARS-CoV-2. When the pandemic first began, people spread the original coronavirus to an average of two or three other people while contagious. Today, people infected with the delta variant infect six other people, on average (Link).
Variants of Interest:
- B.1.1.7 (Alpha)
- B.1.351 (Beta)
- B.1.617.2 (Delta)
- P.1 (Gamma)
- C.37 (Lambda)
“These results suggest that boosting vaccinated individuals with currently available mRNA vaccines would produce a quantitative increase in plasma neutralizing activity but not the qualitative advantage against variants obtained by vaccinating convalescent individuals.”
More Vaccinated than Unvaccinated people getting infected:
But what about the evidence that even those who are vaccinated still get infected by COVID-19? – particularly the delta variant? As an example of this, consider a series of large public events that occurred over several days in Cape Cod, Massachusetts (from July 3–17). This “event” or “series of events” if you prefer, resulted in 469 people being infected with Covid-19 (as initially reported by the CDC). Of this number, 346 (74%) occurred in fully vaccinated persons!
That sounds like a problem until one realizes that 72% of the population in Massachusetts has received at least one vaccine dose, and, overall, 4,389,137 people or 63% of Massachusetts’s population has been fully vaccinated. Of those 75 years of age and older, the rate of full vaccination is 81.7% and for those 50-74 years of age, the rate of full vaccination in this state is over 80%. And, the vaccine rate is even high for those who are in their 20s, 30s, and 40s in this region (Link). Only the children have a low rate of vaccination because the vaccines are not available to children yet. And, those attending these large events were supposed to be vaccinated.
Clearly, then, as in the UK, the significant majority of those older than 30 years of age have been fully vaccinated. So, it only stands to reason that the majority of infections, and even deaths, would be among those who have been vaccinated since the effectiveness of the vaccines is not 100%. It’s very good, but not 100%. When it comes to the original type of COVID-19, vaccines not only provide significant protection against hospitalization and death, but also significantly reduce the transmission rate of the virus to others.
What is different, then, about this Massachusetts data, is that the delta variant seems to have a much higher infection rate, even among those who have been vaccinated, as compared to the original COVID-19 virus of 2020. Just watch Dr. Roger Seheult’s video (linked above), where he explains that the only group of people that has a decreased risk of severe infection requiring hospitalization and/or death from the Delta Variant is not the unvaccinated group, or even the partially vaccinated group, but the fully vaccinated group (within a particular age category).
Again, when it comes to the severity of illness and deaths, all of the data worldwide, the UK data included, strongly supports the conclusion that the unvaccinated, within a particular age category, are at a far far higher risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19 infections (particularly the delta variant now) as compared to those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 – via the mRNA vaccines in particular. More than 99% of those who are dying of COVID-19 right now, within a particular age category, are the unvaccinated – in this country and around the world (Link, Link).
More Vaccinated than Unvaccinated people dying in England:
Many conspiracy theorists (like Dr. Mercola for example) are misinterpreting the data coming from the UK (what’s new). Sure, more vaccinated people are dying in the UK compared to unvaccinated. However, the risk of hospitalization and death is much higher in the unvaccinated. How can that be?
Imagine everyone is now fully vaccinated with COVID vaccines – which are excellent but can’t save all lives. Some people who get infected with COVID will still die. All of these people will be fully vaccinated – 100%. That doesn’t mean vaccines aren’t effective at reducing death.
The risk of dying from COVID doubles roughly every seven years older a patient is. The 35-year difference between a 35-year-old and a 70-year-old means the risk of death between the two patients has doubled five times – equivalently it has increased by a factor of 32. An unvaccinated 70-year-old might be 32 times more likely to die of COVID than an unvaccinated 35-year-old. This dramatic variation of the risk profile with age means that even excellent vaccines don’t reduce the risk of death for older people to below the risk for some younger demographics.
PHE data suggests that being double vaccinated reduces the risk of being hospitalized with the now-dominant delta variant by around 96%. Even conservatively assuming the vaccines are no more effective at preventing death than hospitalization (actually they are likely to be more effective at preventing death) this means the risk of death for double vaccinated people has been cut to less than one-twentieth of the value for unvaccinated people with the same underlying risk profile.
However, the 20-fold decrease in risk afforded by the vaccine isn’t enough to offset the 32-fold increase in the underlying risk of death of a 70-year-old over a 35-year-old. Given the same risk of infection, we would still expect to see more double-vaccinated 70-year-olds die from COVID than unvaccinated 35-year-olds. There are caveats to that simple calculation. The risk of infection is not the same for all age groups. Currently, infections are highest in the youngest and lower in older age groups (Link).
Light at the end of the tunnel:
Some experts are heartened by the recent decrease in COVID-19 cases in the U.K. and India, both hard-hit with the Delta variant. COVID-19 cases in India peaked at more than 400,000 a day in May; by Aug. 2, that had dropped to about 30,500 daily.
Andy Slavitt, former Biden White House senior adviser for COVID-19 response, tweeted July 26 that if the Delta variant acted the same in the U.K. as in India, it would have a quick rise and a quick drop.
The prediction seems to have come true. As of Aug. 3, U.K. cases have dropped to 7,467, compared to more than 46,800 July 19.
12 thoughts on “Natural Immunity vs. Vaccines vs. the Delta Variant”
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Sean, you’re not nearly as critical regarding the vaccine studies as you are regarding studies proving evolution, and that’s a shame. The Creator also created our immune system, and He did a better job than the creators of the vaccines did, and we should know that intuitively. But there are studies that demonstrate this.
In the meantime, the studies Roger mentioned are flawed in the narrowness of their focus on antibodies alone. They really don’t tell the story.
Your comments on the Massachusetts and UK data make sense up to the point. But the data does not confirm that vaccines offer a significant advantage, since the death rate of vaccinated and unvaccinated persons follow
a similar curve and would thus demonstrate that vaccinated and unvaccinated persons get infected and die from new variants at a similar rate. (Current vaccines seem to be most effective against the original or alpha version of the virus, and Roger analyzed studies that were done before the Delta version.) Something to also check out is how being “vaccinated” or “unvaccinated” is being determined. In many cases, persons are deemed “unvaccinated” until after 2 weeks after the single-dose vaccines or 2 weeks after the second shot of the two-dose vaccines. There’s no indication how they were counted in these analyses. It seems to me that it could make a significant difference in interpretation of the data.
You know, of course, that vaccinated folks have comparable viral loads to unvaccinated folks, when infected. So, no, vaccination does not seem to protect others.
I’m going to shamelessly plagiarize a Youtube comment to save time:
Tom S 1 month ago
Concerning the study in Nature, there caveats that one needs to take into account. 1) The natural immune response targets various portions of the viral structure/life cycle. As such, it is not exclusively focused towards the spike protein. 2) Natural antibodies may wane over time. This is well seen in those with prior hep B infections where antibodies drop below levels of “protection”, yet rebound robustly upon rechallenge. 3) The study focuses on the immune levels to spike proteins pre/post vaccination. Sure, the vaccine performs better because it’s target is entirely the spike protein. Those with natural infection show lower levels to start with, but again, that might relate to point #1. In sum, this study is valid related to how antibodies form after vaccine, but cannot really shed any light on whether such levels are relevant in previously infected individuals (point #2). Naturally infected individuals might still have excellent protection due to the complex nature of antibody formation in vivo.
Also see https://newsrescue.com/delta-variant-natural-immunity-700-greater-protection-than-shot-data-from-israeli-govt-shows/
http://www.science.org had a similar report when I bookmarked it Aug 27, but it now yields a 404 error. H’mm …
Their title was “Having SARS-CoV-2 once confers much greater immunity than a vaccine—but no infection parties, please”
Now, of course, you will say it was taken down because it was wrong. I have other thoughts.
Longitudinal analysis shows durable and broad immune memory after SARS-CoV-2 infection with persisting antibody responses and memory B and T cells:
On natural immunity vs vaccines in Israel:
Much more .. but it’s way past my bedtime.
Inge Anderson(Quote)View Comment
You’re commenting on an older post regarding natural immunity. Since then, additional evidence has indeed come to light showing that natural immunity goes well beyond antibody production and is therefore generally superior to vaccine-based immunity. Of course, vaccine-based immunity does have a couple of advantages over natural immunity. The most obvious advantage, of course, is that vaccine-based immunity is gained without having to take on the significant risks associated with getting infected by COVID-19. The additional advantage of vaccine-based immunity is that it seems to offer more consistent immunity compared to natural immunity (i.e., some who were infected don’t gain significant immunity following infection).
I discuss all of this in much more detail here: Link
As far as being more critical of evolutionists, look, I’ve reviewed a great many conspiracy claims. I usually get several sent to me every day. It’s not like I haven’t reviewed these claims you’re sending my way. It’s just that they almost always turn out to be completely false or misleading. It’s the same thing as with the evolutionary arguments I get – except it’s now on the other foot. What you believe regarding COVID-19 and vaccines simply doesn’t have the weight of empirical evidence to back it up. I know the claims of conspiracy theorists can be scary and worrisome. However, that doesn’t mean that they’re true. They just aren’t true. The minority opinion isn’t always true. In fact, the majority of experts are usually right – as in this case.
Sean Pitman(Quote)View Comment
I’m glad you reached the conclusion that the immune system God designed into our bodies gives better protection against infection than vaccines do.
However, you also wrote: “The additional advantage of vaccine-based immunity is that it seems to offer more consistent immunity compared to natural immunity (i.e., some who were infected don’t gain significant immunity following infection)”
But Sean, that’s exactly what happens with vaccines – “some who were infected [got the vaccine] don’t gain significant immunity following infection [the vaccine shots].” That’s why we have “breakthrough infections.”
Regarding what I believe about the COVID vaccine, further evidence has demonstrated my belief that natural immunity is significantly better than vaccine immunity to be true.
You’re referring to “conspiracy theories” being “scary.” By that criteria, the mainstream narrative is a conspiracy theory. H’mm … maybe so .. especially considering the suppression of information and the lack of open dialogue that is normally part of a scientific approach to problem-solving. The alternative views I have investigated are actually far more hopeful and less scary than the mainstream narrative which has kept much of the world fearful and engaged in irrational and hateful behavior (e.g. wearing a mask while alone in a car or walking alone outdoors and reporting persons for not wearing a mask alone on the beach or riding a bike alone outside) for the better part of two years. So the “scary” theory is not what I subscribe to. The alternative path is lined with stories of apparently miraculous recoveries, some of which have made their way into mainstream news because of the involvement of the court system.
I have actively searched for a death proven to be directly attributable to the drug that has a history of billions of doses taken. I have found one recent claim, but no proof. I have seen a lot of scary warnings and supposed “poisonings,” but no hard evidence of harm beyond headache, nausea and stomach upset from misuse of the drug. (I really would like to see more evidence on he subject.) That can’t even be said of aspirin. I’ve read that there may have been one death attributable to the drug by someone with a genetic mutation that made the drug dangerous to the person, but I couldn’t find it. If an alternative drug is safer than aspirin and there are thousands of claimed recoveries resulting from the drug, isn’t it worth a trial, no matter what the “studies” say, considering the alternative is often death after being on a ventilator?
But it’s okay. We each can choose a path that is consistent with the best evidence as we understand it. For that matter, it seems to me that vaccination is the best course for many but not for others. Most don’t bother to understand just what these COVID vaccines do, much less do a benefit-risk analysis. But some of us do, and some of us find that avoiding the COVID vaccine, boosting our immune system and preparing for a possible infection is the best path for us. (I suspect everyone will be exposed to this corona virus sooner or later, just as we have been to other corona viruses.) What concerns me most is the lack of respect among Christians for those with opposing views. While I don’t see vaccination as a salvation matter, an attitude of forcing others into agreement with our views is not an attitude born of the Spirit of God but of the enemy. I believe we can agree on that.
Inge Anderson(Quote)View Comment
God didn’t “design” COVID-19 derived immunity any more than vaccine-derived immunity. What God designed was an immune system that could learn from past infections (or exposure to foreign antigens) in order to prevent future infections by the same type of invader more effectively.
You see, I’m not sure that we have the same definition of “natural immunity” in the context of COVID-19 here. The human body was designed with two different types of immune systems known as the “innate” and “adaptive” immune systems. Consider, now, that I’m not talking about generalized immunity that isn’t specific or targeted against COVID-19 in particular. In other words, I’m not talking about the “innate” immune system. What I am talking about is the “adaptive” immune system – a type of immunity that can be gained by surviving a “natural infection” to COVID-19 – which then produces “natural immunity” or “naturally-derived immunity” within the adaptive immune system that is specifically targeted against future COVID-19 infections. And, as already mentioned, while this “natural” method of gaining targeted adaptive immunity can be superior to the immunity gained by vaccines, for some people, it is far riskier and is not nearly as consistent as vaccine-derived adaptive immunity.
But, you counter with the argument that vaccines are also not consistent since there are “breakthrough infections”. However, the consistency I’m talking about is in regard to the reduction of deaths – not just breakthrough nasopharyngeal infections (which aren’t the real problem). As noted in my McCullough article (Link), a fairly new study showed that the “percentage of variant cross-binding memory B cells was higher in vaccinees than individuals who recovered from mild COVID-19.” (Goel, et al., August 23, 2021). In this regard, it seems as though those who were vaccinated have an advantage in that the resulting immunity is more consistent and predictable as compared to natural immunity. These higher levels of memory B-cells within vaccinated people may also be the reason for the long-term protection against hospitalizations and deaths – despite the waining levels of antibody levels against the virus over time. Memory T- and B-cells produced in response to the vaccine can be “awakened” when an infection hits the body, a pre-formed arm that is ready to fight off the repeat offender. This is all right in line with a recent Lancet study:
Those are AMAZING results – for the vaccinated.
For the unvaccinated, on the other hand, there is also the problem that up to a third of people who were previously infected by COVID-19 don’t develop antibodies against it (Liu et al., September 2021). Ultimately, 36% of those who were infected by COVID-19 remained seronegative, meaning that they never developed detectable levels of such antibodies in their blood, even when multiple blood samples were checked for each person. The study also revealed that people who had lower SARS-CoV-2 viral loads in their respiratory tract were less like to subsequently have antibodies in their blood. This means, of course, that the adaptive immune system was never educated enough to effectively combat future infections by COVID-19.
So, you see, the vaccine may not reach as high a level of immunity as is gained by some who survived a prior infection by COVID-19. However, the level of immunity gained, when it comes to reducing hospitalizations and death, is more consistent for the vaccinated. This is the reason why there are so many stories of those who thought that they were safe, because of some previous mild COVID-19 infection, but then got infected again with COVID-19 and got very sick, particularly with the Delta Variant, with many dying as a result.
As far as your “alternative views” being more hopeful and less scary, that would be the case if they were actually true. The problem is that the conspiracy theorists that you consistently follow paint the vaccines as much more risky and scary than they truly are and the COVID-19 pandemic as much less serious and much less scary than it really is. They also create far more confidence in alternative drugs and therapies, like ivermectin for instance, than is actually supported by the weight of scientific evidence. That’s the problem. They create fear where there shouldn’t be fear and they create confidence where there shouldn’t be so much confidence. They get things exactly backward.
This is not to say that I think things were handled by the government very well at all. I don’t think it was necessary to shut down the government, for one thing. However, this is all 20/20 hindsight of course.
As far as the “miraculous recoveries” you mention, these are far too few. There are far far too many hospitalizations, serious long-term injuries, and deaths to be very comforted by miraculous recoveries. Clearly, these miraculous recoveries aren’t remotely common enough nor are they associated with drugs like ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine which have, so far, not shown a consistently detectable benefit in the best and largest RCTs.
Sure, ivermectin has relatively few side effects (unless you overdose) and a low mortality rate. However, it’s not as though the mortality risk is zero. “Between the years 2003 and 2017, the total average population treated [with Ivermectin] was around 15,552,588 among which 945 cases of SAE [severe adverse effects] were registered in DR Congo, i.e. 6 cases of SAE for 100,000 persons treated per year. 55 deaths related to post-CDTI SAE were recorded, which represents 5.8% of all cases of SAE.” (Link). Still, the point here is that even if the risks for ivermectin were actually zero, there’s still no good evidence that it provides much of a useful benefit – certainly nothing close to the benefits provided by the vaccines against COVID-19.
Yet, you write:
It might be worth a try if that was your only option. However, it isn’t your only option. Now that we have vaccines that provide a very clear and very substantial benefit, it is far far more reasonable to take the vaccines than to trust that ivermectin will save you – when the best scientific studies have yet to detect much of a benefit, even with early treatment, at reducing severe COVID-19 infections or death.
You’re certainly free to choose. However, your choice could impact others – in a negative way. If the vaccines really do significantly reduce the odds of transmitting the virus to others (as several studies have shown), the choice of a person not to get vaccinated increases the odds of viral transmission to others who might not do as well against a COVID-19 infection. We aren’t islands here. Our choices have the potential to affect other people.
But, you think you can “boost your immune system” some other way. I wish this were true, but there just isn’t any other way that is as effective as the vaccines at the moment. The problem is that as humans age, our immune systems deteriorate at an almost exponential rate. Diet and healthful living do help, to be sure, but this does not negate the need to take advantage of the additional substantial advantages offered by vaccines – and this becomes more and more true the older and older we get. Add as many layers of protection as you can. Do it all. Be as healthy as you can be – AND take the vaccine.
Consider also that even a very healthy young person, who personally might have a very low risk of serious sickness or death, can still get infected and transmit the virus to others who might not do so well with an infection.
Indeed. However, the faster we can achieve herd immunity, as a community, the more those who are most vulnerable among us will be protected. And, the fastest and safest way to do this is via vaccines.
Love and respect never go out of style. However, there are times when the most loving thing to do is to protect those who are most vulnerable from those who are unwilling to act in a way that best protects the most vulnerable – particularly, say, in a hospital or nursing home setting. This isn’t to say that I’m a fan of government mandates for the general population. I’m not. I think that such mandates are largely counterproductive. Given that the vaccines are generally available for those who want them now, it seems best to me to limit mandates to those who work in settings where people are sick or old or otherwise vulnerable.
Sean Pitman(Quote)View Comment