Will vaccines hinder the development of natural immunity post-infection?
Hoping for a virologist/immunologist to help me sort through new published data about T-cell response post-Omicron AND vaccination
We already know the mRNA Covid vaccines don’t stop Covid infections. (Neat trick, for $100 billion.)
Now it’s time to start asking if they will actually hinder long-term immunity in people after they are infected and recover.
The vaccines could cause long-term damage to immunity in a couple of ways. They could slow the overall growth of B- and T-cells - the parts of the immune system that are primed to recognize and attack Sars-Cov-2 virions upon reinfection. They might also cause those cells to be lousy at attacking new variants of the coronavirus’s spike protein.
We have little published research on this question - far less than we should, given that more than 1 billion people have now received these vaccines. (A thousand million human souls. After clinical trials that lasted a few months, for a technology never used in any approved medicine before. The biggest, most dangerous medical experiment in history. But I digress.)
However, we already know natural immunity beats vaccine immunity - and that giving vaccines to people after they have recovered from Sars-Cov-2 does not seem to boost their immune systems further.
On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control again confirmed this fact. The CDC published a paper comparing infections in vaccinated people and those with natural immunity. The CDC massaged the data to help vaccines by excluding cases in “partially vaccinated” people (partially vaccinated IS vaccinated- we don’t exclude negative outcomes early in treatment for other drugs).
Nonetheless, the report was clear. The study began in late May, at or near the peak of protection for most vaccinated Americans. For a couple of weeks, vaccinated people had fewer infections than those with natural immunity.
But vaccine protection then plunged, while natural immunity kept getting better. By mid-July vaccinated people were four times more likely to be infected - and that gap remained until the study ended in November.
SOURCE: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/71/wr/mm7104e1.htm (see table 2)
Just as important, giving a vaccine to people with natural immunity did little to further increase their protection - the difference was minor and could have been due to chance.
But as the great mRNA vaccine experiment churns to a halt, the more important question going forward is not whether the vaccines offer lasting immunity. We already know the answer is no.
It is whether those vaccines will damage immunity AFTER they fail and people are infected and recover.
A new letter in the Lancet offers a hint.
Researchers examined seven Germans who were infected with Omicron in South Africa in late November and early December. Six were in their mid-20s, while the seventh was 39. All were healthy, and all had been not just vaccinated but boosted. Even so, they all became symptomatic, and three developed shortness of breath (hardly evidence that vaccination reduces symptoms).
Two weeks after the patients had recovered, the researchers checked six of them for T-cells against different parts of the Sars-Cov-2 viral particle. T-cells form the core of long-lasting immunity against infection. One type, CD4+ T-cells, works with another part of the immune system - B-cells - to make antibodies against the coronavirus and other invaders. The other type, CD8+ T-cells, directly attacks and kills infected cells, so they can’t produce more viruses.
The researchers said they found “robust CD4 and CD8 T-cell responses” in the patients.
But the actual data appear to tell a different story, especially about the CD8 cells - which the vaccines are known to stimulate only weakly if at all. The charts in the appendix show that two patients had no CD8 cells at all, including against the spike protein. And none of the patients developed CD8 cells capable of recognizing the viral membrane. (Side note: if I ever write a book about investigative reporting, I’m calling it THE GOOD STUFF IS IN THE APPENDIX.)
The results were somewhat better for the CD4, though even those responses were nearly all below 0.1 percent, meaning that fewer than 1 out of 1,000 T-cells could recognize any of the specific viral proteins.
These results don’t look particularly robust to me, but I’d like some subject matter experts to weigh in. You can email me at alexberensonauthor at protonmail.com.
Here’s the paper:
And the relevant charts from the appendix:
Have at it, hive mind!