While evidence suggests that being vaccinated offers higher protection against COVID-19 than previously being infected, some Republican lawmakers are attempting to add exemptions to vaccine requirements for those with “natural immunity.”
As CBS News reports, West Virginia, Arkansas, and now Florida are asking employers to make room for workers with “natural immunity”—those who they say have been diagnosed with COVID-19 before and recovered—as an exemption to getting the vaccine. Alabama’s attorney general is also urging such additions, while Republicans in Idaho, New Hampshire, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, and Wyoming are also doing the same.
“Unlike what you see going on with some of the federal proposed mandates, other states, is we’re actually doing a science-based approach,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said.
A bill signed by DeSantis recently includes “medical evidence that the employee has immunity to COVID-19” as an exemption employers have to make in vaccination policies. Of course, an October CDC study found just the opposite, showing that unvaccinated people with prior infection within 3-6 months were 5.49 times more likely to have COVID-19 than those fully vaccinated in the same time frame.
“We now have additional evidence that reaffirms the importance of COVID-19 vaccines, even if you have had prior infection,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky said. “This study adds more to the body of knowledge demonstrating the protection of vaccines against severe disease from COVID-19. The best way to stop COVID-19, including the emergence of variants, is with widespread COVID-19 vaccination and with disease prevention actions such as mask wearing, washing hands often, physical distancing, and staying home when sick.”
Even though the CDC found that surviving COVID can lead to antibodies “approximately equivalent” to two vaccine doses, it’s not something the average person can calculate. The Food and Drug Administration has only authorized serology tests to show the likelihood of someone being previously exposed, but not not to see what protection they have for getting COVID again.
“At least right now, if you had COVID-19, particularly if you had it months and months ago, it’s probably a good idea to get vaccinated,” Dr. Peter Marks, the Food and Drug Administration’s top vaccines official said.
While 775,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, according to ABC News, new variants are still being detected. Two cases of a newly discovered variant, Omicron, have been spotted in the UK, according to UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid. The cases, which are linked to South Africa, come as Dr. Anthony Fauci claimed he “wouldn’t be surprised” if it was already in the U.S., which is now restricting travel from South Africa and seven other countries starting Monday as a result, according to CNN.
“We have not detected it yet, but when you have a virus that is showing this degree of transmissibility and you’re already having travel-related cases that they’ve noted in Israel and Belgium and other places, when you have a virus like this, it almost invariably is ultimately going to go, essentially all over,” Fauci said.