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Natural Immunity Exemption From Vaccine Mandate for Michigan Healthcare Workers

Published: September 15, 2021
Workers at Spectrum Health are now allowed to provide proof of natural immunity to bypass the vaccine mandate requirement.
Workers at Spectrum Health are now allowed to provide proof of natural immunity to bypass the vaccine mandate requirement. (Image: x3 via Pixabay)

Michigan-based Spectrum Health announced on Sept. 9 that it would allow workers to bypass the vaccine mandate if they provided evidence of natural immunity against Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). This is a first for a major healthcare provider in Michigan.

Spectrum Health will provide an exemption to workers who “have a positive PCR or antigen test for COVID-19 plus a positive antibody test from within the past three months,” according to a statement given on Thursday.

The idea for the resolution originated from a suggestion made by the Spectrum Health medical exemption committee.

According to The Detroit News report, “While we still recommend vaccination for people with prior COVID-19 infection, according to this new research, there is increasing evidence that natural infection affords protection from COVID-19 reinfection and severe symptoms for a period of time.”

Proof from the latest studies indicates that having COVID-19 previously significantly reduces the risk of contracting the SARS-CoV-2 virus again, and if someone is reinfected, the severity of symptoms is reduced, Spectrum Health noted in a statement to Fox 17.

However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Experts don’t know for sure how long this protection lasts, and the risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 far outweighs any benefits of natural immunity.”

A study at Cleveland Clinic, conducted in late 2020 and early 2021 before the emergence of the Delta variant, revealed that employees who had tested positive for COVID-19 and declined vaccination were not reinfected over the five-month period that the study was conducted.

According to a CDC study in Kentucky, “unvaccinated individuals are more than twice as likely to be reinfected with COVID-19 than those who were fully vaccinated after initially contracting the virus.” This study showed “hundreds of Kentucky residents” who were infected but remained unvaccinated had 2.34 times the odds of getting reinfected.

New data on natural immunity to COVID-19 will be assessed by the Spectrum Health committee on a continual basis. Other vaccine mandate exemptions are given for religious and medical reasons, as allowed by the Medical Exemption Committee.

Israel study

A new Israeli study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, has discovered that people who are fully vaccinated are more susceptible to the Delta variant than those who have natural immunity.

The highly transmissible Delta is the dominant strain in Israel. The study was based on the time period between June 1 and Aug. 14, 2021, which is around the time that Delta cases peaked in the country.

Earlier this week, the team of researchers from Maccabi Healthcare and Tel Aviv University published their study in medRxiv.

According to the researchers, “This study demonstrated that natural immunity confers longer lasting and stronger protection against infection, symptomatic disease and hospitalization caused by the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2.”

“This is the largest real-world observational study comparing natural immunity, gained through previous SARS-CoV-2 infection, to vaccine-induced immunity, afforded by the BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine.”

Between March 1, 2020, and Aug. 14, 2021, researchers used data from Israel’s second-largest health fund, Maccabi Healthcare Services. The study was divided into three groups: 673,676 individuals who had been fully vaccinated with both doses of the Pfizer vaccine before Feb. 28, 2021; 62,883 people who were infected beforehand and then received one dose; and 42,099 people who were infected with COVID-19 and recovered, but remained unvaccinated.

Contrary to the claims of the CDC, the Israeli study, which featured a total of 778,658 people, revealed that individuals who were fully vaccinated with Pfizer were 13.06 times more likely to get infected with the Delta variant and 27.02 times more at risk of getting the symptomatic disease compared to those who had COVID-19 and recovered. The first infection or vaccination happened between Jan. and Feb. 2021 for people involved in the study.

In other words, according to the Israeli data, the Pfizer vaccine may not only make individuals more susceptible to new variants but may also make them more likely to have the symptomatic disease and end up hospitalized.