Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who is also a Pfizer board member, noted that “natural immunity” gained from a prior COVID-19 infection needs to be included in discussions about virus-related policies and mandates.
“The balance of the evidence demonstrates that natural immunity confers a durable protection,” Gottlieb said during an Aug. 30 interview, referring to a landmark new preprint Israeli study that found that prior COVID-19 infection confers more protection against the virus than any of the vaccines. “It’s fair to conclude that.”
Although Gottlieb said he would “be careful” about concluding whether natural immunity provides better protection against transmitting the virus, officials “should start assimilating that into our policy discussions.”
“Natural infection confers robust and durable immunity,” he said, citing the Israeli study and others.
However, whether natural immunity or vaccines are better than one another “isn’t that material” when it comes to policy discussions, Gottlieb said.
Last week, researchers from Maccabi Healthcare and Tel Aviv University said that individuals who had recovered from COVID-19 had superior protection against the Delta variant of the CCP virus compared to those who received the Pfizer mRNA vaccine, the most commonly used shot in Israel.
“This analysis demonstrated that natural immunity affords longer-lasting and stronger protection against infection, symptomatic disease, and hospitalization due to the Delta variant,” the study reads, noting that the findings came from the “largest real-world observational study” in the world.
The study, which hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed, noted outcomes for a period between June 1 and Aug. 14 of this year.
When the researchers compared cases of prior infection that occurred between March 2020 and February 2021 with vaccinations that occurred between January and February 2021, they found that the vaccinated cohort was 5.96 times more likely to contract the Delta variant and 7.13 times more at risk for symptomatic disease compared to those previously infected.
Those vaccinated were at a greater risk of COVID-19-related hospitalizations compared to those who were previously infected, the authors noted. They also noted that being 60 or older increased the risk of infection and hospitalization.
The authors said they only looked at protection against the Delta variant, and only at the Pfizer vaccine and not other vaccines or booster shots.
Mimi Nguyen-Ly contributed to this report.