In a superb opinion piece in The Hill on Feb. 3, Drs. Jeffrey Klausner and Noah Kojima lauded the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for finally recognizing that naturally acquired immunity to COVID-19 is superior to that induced through vaccination.

That was the undeniable conclusion of a study conducted in California and New York. 

Understandably, as medical professionals, the authors did not take the extra step of blaming the CDC for nearly two years of botched policy.

Instead, they explained that the new report “finally acknowledges what many have suspected for a long time—that surviving COVID-19 provides excellent natural immunity not only [to] repeat infection, but also to hospitalization and death for the delta variant of COVID-19.” 

Klausner and Kojima are too generous. The scientific fact of naturally acquired immunity has not merely been “suspected” for some time. It was well-established through numerous rigorous, large-scale studies, including—but not limited to—one from the Cleveland Clinic (last June), another from Israel (last August), and a third from Qatar (last December), all of which confirm what humans have known for centuries; namely, recovering from a viral infection confers (often long-lasting) immunity. 

Instead of incorporating this incontrovertible evidence into its COVID-19 vaccination guidance and recommending that recovered individuals should be exempt from mandates, for months the CDC doubled down on its false mantra that vaccine-induced immunity is superior to that following recovery from the virus, so everyone should get the vaccine.

It has done this through sleight of hand. Because vaccination may slightly elevate the levels of antibodies in COVID-19-recovered individuals for a brief period, the agency has run misleading headlines, claiming that certain studies prove even the naturally immune should get the vaccine.

But as many scientists have noted, this transient antibody boosting does not necessarily equate to a clinical benefit. In other words, it may not result in more robust immunity, and regardless, any increase is negligible.

Furthermore, the insistence upon recommending vaccination in this context does not account for potential adverse side effects.

Many naturally immune individuals—especially younger people—may reasonably conclude that the risk of, for example, myocarditis outweighs any marginal benefit for them.  

The CDC’s refusal to change its stance despite voluminous evidence has led to real-world harm.

First, it has negatively impacted millions of naturally immune people in the United States because employers and governments enforcing mandates have refused to exempt them from vaccine requirements.

Many individuals with naturally acquired immunity lost their jobs, suffered discrimination, or suffered mental distress as a result of being coerced into receiving an unnecessary medical procedure.

These ill-conceived policies have, in a sick irony, led some states to permit health care workers currently infected with COVID-19 to treat patients, due to employee shortages resulting from termination of workers who declined the vaccine—many of whom possess natural immunity and thus were safer employees to have around.

Second, the CDC’s inexplicable natural immunity denialism has sown distrust in public health.

Americans caught on to the deceptive tactics that the agency was wielding in its push to vaccinate everyone.

As a lawyer challenging vaccine mandates in court, I speak to many individuals who have naturally acquired immunity and legitimate concerns about receiving the vaccine unnecessarily.

For instance, one young man about 30 years of age, who had been vaccinated in the spring, then caught COVID-19 in December. His employer, New York University, insisted that he get the booster.

Given his age and the potential myocarditis risk, along with his recent recovery, he determined that a booster was not in his interests. He faces loss of a job he worked hard for years to obtain.

Just days ago, Paul Offit, one of the country’s most zealous vaccine advocates, described the CDC’s meeting in which the decision was made to recommend that natural immunity not be recognized as equivalent to that attained through vaccination. 

Offit explained that this approach, at odds with the science, was advocated for by Drs. Anthony Fauci and Francis Collins and was “bureaucratic more than anything else.”

Perhaps Fauci and Collins did not foresee the social and economic upheaval that would result from their natural immunity denialism. 

Regardless, their refusal to follow the science and the elevation of bureaucratic concerns above all else have greatly diminished the public’s trust.

If the CDC is to have any chance of recovering its reputation and credibility, it must acknowledge its error immediately, recommend that anyone who has COVID-19 antibodies be exempt from any vaccine mandates, apologize to the American people (especially those who have lost their jobs) for what it has done to them, and encourage employers to hire back employees (and schools to reenroll students) with natural immunity.

Employers and others must stop treating nonbinding guidance as gospel. As the CDC has proven, agencies are fallible.

The Daily Signal publishes a variety of perspectives. Nothing written here is to be construed as representing the views of The Heritage Foundation.

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