ARS TECHNICA – Unvaccinated people who recover from an omicron coronavirus variant infection are left with paltry levels of neutralizing antibodies against omicron. They also have almost no neutralizing antibodies against any of five other coronavirus variants, including delta.
People who were vaccinated before getting an omicron infection, however, have strong protection against all five variants, and they have some of the highest levels of neutralizing antibodies against omicron.
That’s all according to a new study surveying neutralizing antibody profiles in people who have all recovered from an omicron infection, with or without pre-existing immunity.
The study was published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine by a team of Austrian researchers.
Overall, the findings highlight that omicron is “an extremely potent immune-escape variant that shows little cross-reactivity with the earlier variants,” the authors conclude. As such, unvaccinated people who recovered from an omicron infection might not have protection from other variants. “For full protection, vaccination is warranted,” they conclude.
The findings and conclusion are likely to rekindle discussion on the importance of “natural immunity,” which is immune protection following an infection rather than vaccination.
People who oppose getting COVID-19 shots argue that their prior infections gave them equal—if not superior—immunity to the pandemic coronavirus compared with vaccination. However, experts repeatedly noted that, while past infection can offer protection, it is not always strong and can vary widely.
Some people who recover from COVID-19 have weak defenses, particularly if they had mild infections. Vaccination, meanwhile, offers relatively consistent and high-level protection.
Moreover, so-called hybrid immunity—getting vaccinated after an infection—offers some of the highest levels of protection.
Variants and vaccines
Still, the omicron wave has been the pandemic’s golden age of confirmation bias for those who oppose vaccines. The ultratransmissible coronavirus variant is perceived as milder than earlier versions, and it can thwart defenses from vaccines, leading to more breakthrough infections … read more.