Influential figures who have expressed skepticism about the severity of the coronavirus are continuing to champion false or misleading claims about natural immunity — and pushing dubious anti-vaccine arguments.
A recent preprint study is being misleadingly used to promote the claim that natural immunity is at least as effective as Covid-19 vaccines. In a Twitter thread shared at least 7,800 times, Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky who has said he will not get vaccinated because he previously recovered from Covid-19, suggested the study shows natural immunity is more effective than “spike-containing” vaccines in protecting against the virus, including variants.
Paul’s Republican colleague Ron Johnson, who has previously promoted misinformation about Covid-19 vaccines, also posted a tweet citing the preprint study, calling on US health agencies to “follow the science.” He also urged them to “take VAERS seriously,” referencing the debunked narrative — based on a misreading of the US vaccine adverse effects database — that Covid-19 vaccines have been causing unprecedented rates of injuries and deaths.
The cited study, which was authored by infectious disease specialists at the Cleveland Clinic, looked at the protective potential of past Covid-19 infections in healthcare workers at the clinic who had recovered from the virus. The study found no Covid-19 reinfection among those with past symptomatic infections. But the study, which has yet to be peer reviewed, has limitations acknowledged by its authors, who cautioned against drawing conclusions about the protective effect of asymptomatic Covid-19 infection as well as the ability of past infection to protect against certain variants.
The current scientific consensus is that Covid-19 vaccines provide a more reliable, safe option for immunity than natural infection. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to advise those who have recovered from past infections to get vaccinated, because of uncertainty about the duration of immunity. — Keenan Chen