Contrary to what the Becker News article claims, not all cases of infection lead to immunity; falsely claims that most COVID-19 deaths were not caused by COVID-19 but by co-morbidities

CLAIM

“The CDC finally admits that a massive number of Americans have ‘natural immunity’: 146.6 million people”; 94% of Covid-related deaths were not caused by Covid-19

DETAILS

Incorrect: It is wrong to claim that most COVID-19 deaths were not caused by COVID-19 because they were associated with co-morbidities. This assertion is based on a misunderstanding of the distinction between a cause of death and comorbidity. Deaths are only classified as COVID-19 if the clinical course of their decline is consistent with COVID-19.
Inadequate support: The claim that all infected people are now immune is not supported by scientific evidence. For example, infection with one strain does not guarantee protection against another strain. In fact, there is some evidence that the Delta variant is associated with a higher risk of re-infection.

KEY TO TAKE AWAY

A previous infection may provide some protection against future infection. However, the level of protection may vary due to factors such as declining immunity and emerging viral variants. While COVID-19 disproportionately affects the elderly and those with certain underlying conditions (co-morbidities) like heart disease and obesity, it is incorrect to state that COVID-19-related deaths involving of people with co-morbidities were not actually caused by COVID-19, as these people would still be alive if they had not developed COVID-19. Vaccine-induced immunity is very effective against serious illness and hospitalization, and is safer than immunity induced by infection.

FULL CLAIM: “The CDC finally admits that a massive number of Americans have ‘natural immunity’: 146.6 million people“; “Natural immunity is a superior protection against Covid-19 than vaccinated immunity”; “The CDC reports ‘Covid-related deaths’, not deaths caused by Covid-19. This is because 94% of Covid-related deaths had serious underlying medical conditions, such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes ”

REVIEW

An article Posted by Becker News in mid-November 2021, written by former Fox News writer Kyle Becker, claimed in its headline that “CDC Finally Admits Massive Number of Americans Have ‘Natural Immunity’: 146 , 6 million people “. In addition, the article also claimed that “natural immunity is superior protection against Covid-19 than vaccinated immunity” and that 94% of deaths from COVID-19 are not actually caused by COVID-19 because the deceased had comorbidities. Becker News has been classified as a dubious source by Media Bias / Fact Check for its publication of conspiracy theories and inaccurate information. The article received more than 2,200 engagements on Facebook, according to social media analysis tool CrowdTangle.

The rehashed article a claim from August 2020 that COVID-19 deaths involving people with underlying health conditions (co-morbidities) were not actually caused by COVID-19. As explained by Health Feedback here and here, this is false and stems from a misunderstanding of what a cause of death and co-morbidity is. A cause of death is the disease that starts the chain of clinical events that lead to death. Co-morbidity is a condition or illness that lowers a person’s overall health and makes them more vulnerable to other illnesses. An example in the context of COVID-19 is asthma.

But co-morbidity does not always lead to death. In fact, many people with asthma live a normal life expectancy. Therefore, deaths from COVID-19 in people with co-morbidities are still caused by COVID-19, as a person with co-morbidity would still be alive if they had not developed COVID-19.

It’s also important to keep in mind that not all of the co-morbidities recorded for 94% of COVID-19 deaths were not pre-existing conditions unrelated to COVID-19, such as heart disease, stroke, and stroke. diabetes. As a Johns Hopkins epidemiologist Justin lessler explained in This article, co-morbidities can also occur as a result of COVID-19 itself, such as respiratory failure.

The article’s assertion that 146.6 million people in the United States have “natural immunity,” or immunity induced by infection, is based on a figure reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) representing the estimated total number of SARS-CoV-2 infections. That number stood at 146.6 million at the time of publication of this review. Becker did not define what he meant by immunity, although the word is defined by Merriam-Webster as protection against disease.

Based on this definition, Becker’s hypothesis is not supported by scientific evidence for several reasons. First, we know that a certain proportion of previously infected people are re-infected, based on scientific studies[1-3]. This means that not all previously infected people develop immunity to the disease. Re-infection studies that ended before the Delta strain became dominant around the world have found re-infections to be rare. A study in Ohio and Florida reported that among 8,845 people infected, 62 were re-infected (0.7%); of these 62, 31 had symptoms of illness[2]. Another study in Lombardy, Italy reported that five people were re-infected among 1,547 COVID-19 patients (0.3%)[3].

But the emergence of virus variants like Delta has dramatically changed that. For example, the Delta variant is more infectious than the original strain—UK data in November 2021 provided evidence that the Delta variant is more likely to cause reinfection than other strains of SARS-CoV-2. It also suggests that the immunity developed against one strain does not always protect as well against another.

In addition, there is also scientific evidence suggesting that immunity wanes over time, at least on the basis studies that track the amount of antibodies in the blood over time. However, antibody levels are only one way to determine protection; other components of the immune system, such as T cells, also play an important role in immunity against viral infections as discussed by Health Feedback here. Given that the factors that determine protection against disease, which scientists call “protection correlates”, Are still not clear, it is not known whether the level of antibodies alone is sufficient to establish immunity.

It is also not true that “146.6 million people have been infected with and survived the Sars-CoV-2 virus,” as Becker claimed. That would mean that all infected people survived, but we know that is not true because COVID-19 does not have a 100% survival rate. In fact, the New York Times reported more than 700,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the United States in early October 2021.

The article’s claim that “natural immunity is superior protection against Covid-19 than vaccinated immunity” is based on two studies, a pre-publication by scientists in Israel[4] and a study published by scientists in the United States[5]. The statement overestimates scientific confidence in the first study and distorts the second.

While study in Israel reported fewer infections in previously infected people compared to those vaccinated, the study was also affected through various biases, such as selection bias and Survival bias. The weaknesses of the study were explained in this discussion directed by James lawler, infectious disease expert and associate professor at the University of Nebraska, as part of weekly university meetings with local and state public health representatives.

For example, Lawler pointed out that the vaccinated group in the study included more people with less health, such as people with cancer (selection bias). This is to be expected, given that COVID-19 vaccination campaigns have generally prioritized high-risk groups such as those in poor health. In addition to an overrepresentation of high-risk people in the vaccinated group, the study design meant that it excluded unvaccinated people who contracted COVID-19 and died (survival bias). In short, the unvaccinated and vaccinated groups differ in many ways unrelated to their vaccination status, so a comparison of the two may not provide meaningful information.

On the other hand, the second study looked at the antibodies in people who were vaccinated and compared the ability of the antibodies to neutralize viral variants (blocking the infection) between people who were and were not previously infected. He concluded that those previously infected who have also been vaccinated developed antibodies that were more able to neutralize variants than vaccinated people who were not previously infected. The study did not include unvaccinated people who had previously been infected. To state that this study showed that infection-induced immunity is better than vaccine-induced immunity is inaccurate and misleading, as this also implied vaccine-induced immunity.

Health Feedback discussed the debate surrounding infection-induced and vaccination-induced immunity in this Insight article, and explained why the benefit-risk profile of vaccine-induced immunity is more favorable than that of infection-induced immunity.

THE REFERENCES