Important: When you get vaccinated, you lose your natural immunity

Army Spc. Angel Laureano holds a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., Dec. 14, 2020. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

I honestly didn’t think I would ever write this headline. I would have assumed that if this were true, it would be impossible to keep quiet. And yet, we now have a scientific study that demonstrates exactly this. It isn’t up for debate either, the authors themselves make it clear that this happens. They might not enjoy having to present these findings, but they don’t deny the results they found.

Bear with me, as I explain these findings and how the underlying mechanism may function. The immune system is complex. It can be broadly divided between the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system. These terms are simplifications, because the innate immune system is not entirely inflexible itself, it too is trained by exposure to pathogens.

In many people, particularly many children, the innate immune system can deal with SARS-COV-2 quite effectively on its own. Thanks to the innate immune system, the virus never even manages to move beyond a foothold in their bodies. In some people, an infection requires the T cells to get involved. Sometimes these T cells are capable of nipping the infection in the bud, meaning that you develop a degree of immunity without ever developing antibodies, because your B cells don’t have to get involved in the war. Often such infections are so mild that most of the tests we perform on people fail to pick them up.

Nonetheless, when we vaccinate people against SARS-COV-2, we try to use the adaptive immune system to our advantage. We try to induce high levels of antibodies. Immunity against SARS-COV-2 can not be entirely reduced to “high levels of antibodies”, but high levels of neutralizing antibodies are a good predictor that you’re not at risk of succumbing to as severe SARS-COV-2 infection. Over time antibody levels can drop. The virus changes as well, because evolution favors the spread of versions that can dodge our antibody response, so over time not all antibodies are effective anymore.

We generally divide the antibodies between “neutralizing” and “binding” antibodies. The neutralizing ones bind to the virus and thereby actually prevent the virus from infecting a cell. The binding antibodies bind to the virus, but can’t stop it from infecting a cell. Some of the binding antibodies actually help viruses enter cells more easily, which is what we call “antibody dependent enhancement”.

To determine whether these vaccines are effective you measure people’s antibody levels over time, particularly the neutralizing antibodies. Now that many vaccinated people are left with very few neutralizing antibodies against Omicron, there is some attempt by people involved in the vaccine business to push the idea that the T cells will be able to handle an Omicron infection on their own, but most T cell immunologists seem to be skeptical of this suggestion.

So, this is important to understand. Although it is increasingly rare at this point in most Western nations, it’s normal for healthy unvaccinated people, particularly young children, who never tested positive and who have no memory of ever having had a nasty cold to have no significant neutralizing antibody response against this virus. That doesn’t mean your immune system is broken, or that you somehow miraculously avoided exposure to the virus. Rather, it means that the virus has never succeeded at causing you enough trouble for your B cells to have to get involved.

On the other hand, there are many people who have had an encounter with this virus, who distinctly remember suffering symptoms of a bad cold, or even having to be hospitalized, before they were vaccinated. We know that when those people develop immunity against this virus, it is supposed to be long-lasting. In fact, over time your B cells start coming up with all sorts of variants of their antibodies, so that if this nasty virus shows up again with some sort of mutation, they can also handle these new variants.

We know that the neutralizing antibody response from the vaccines does not last very long. It starts out very high and then it declines very rapidly, after six months you’re left with just 1.3% of the original peak, according to one study. That’s why they constantly keep giving you boosters. Natural immunity doesn’t work like this. If you have gone through a natural infection from this virus, then the natural antibody response lasts for a very long time, in fact it strengthens over time as your B cells start trying out all sorts of subtly different variants to the antibodies they had to create to deal with the original infection.

But what happens, if you have gone through a natural infection and then decide to get two shots of the vaccine? The idea often peddled is that this should give you some sort of “super-immunity”, that this is the best way to be protected. And yet, it turns out that what we see is the exact opposite. When you go through a natural infection and decide to get vaccinated, your antibody curve starts looking like that of vaccinated people who were never infected.

Whereas the neutralizing antibody response remains and actually strengthens over time in naturally infected people who were never vaccinated, it rapidly declines in naturally infected people who are vaccinated, at basically the same pace as it does in vaccinated people who were never infected. In other words, for naturally infected people, vaccination destroys their neutralizing antibody response.

Here’s the study. The authors chillingly write:

From day 14 to day 291, more than 75% of the samples were positive for NAbs (n = 87/110, 79.1%). Interestingly, 6 months post symptoms onset, the majority of the samples (N = 44/52, 84.6%) were still positive for NAbs.

This is in sharp contrast with the results we obtained 6 months post-vaccination in our cohort of healthcare workers who received the two-dose regimens of BNT162b2 [].

In this cohort of vaccinated subjects, 43% (n = 25/58) of the participants no longer exhibit NAbs activity 180 days after the administration of the first dose of BNT162b2 []. This is a very interesting observation since even those who were seropositive at baseline, i.e., a documented previous infection to SARS-CoV-2, seemed to lose their neutralizing capacity (n = 7/18, 39%) [].

In other words, for naturally infected people, vaccination gets you back to square one. You got infected with this virus early on during the pandemic, you thought you’d do the “right thing” and get vaccinated against it, but the effect it had is that now your antibody levels received a temporary boost, but by six months they’re now down to a fraction of what they would have been if you had never bothered to get these vaccines.

Here’s the graph the authors included: