Coons reiterated that “we frankly shouldn’t let up on the urgency of still promoting vaccination” so that “we can enjoy reopening our society.”
“It is infinitely preferable to have natural immunity than vaccine immunity,” Prager said, echoing an anti-vaccine argument echoed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other pro-Trump figures who have turned coronavirus vaccination into a culture war that, public health officials say, could prolong the pandemic for everyone.
Prager is wrong, suggests a new study published on Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that finds that natural immunity offers far weaker protection than does a vaccine. The new study finds that people who had natural immunity from having recently fought off COVID-19 and who were not vaccinated were 5.49 times more likely to experience another COVID-19 infection than were vaccinated people who had not previously been infected.
“The data demonstrate that vaccination can provide a higher, more robust, and more consistent level of immunity to protect people from hospitalization for COVID-19 than infection alone for at least 6 months,” a CDC press release said.
The new study runs counter to an Israeli analysis, made public in August, that suggested the opposite, with natural immunity seemingly offering greater protection than vaccination.
“Vaccine-induced immunity is way better than infection and recovery, what some call weirdly ‘natural immunity,’” Baylor College of Medicine infectious disease expert Dr. Peter J. Hotez tweeted on Friday afternoon. “The anti-vaccine and far right groups go ballistic, but it’s the reality.”
It was a reality public health officials were eager to highlight, given the continued resistance of some Americans to coronavirus inoculations. “We now have additional evidence that reaffirms the importance of COVID-19 vaccines, even if you have had prior infection,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement that accompanied the release of the new findings. “This study adds more to the body of knowledge demonstrating the protection of vaccines against severe disease from COVID-19.”
“Real Time” host Bill Maher railed against ongoing COVID restrictions, declaring the pandemic “over.”
Maher kicked off the show’s panel discussion Friday night by expressing relief that Dr. Anthony Fauci has given the green light on Halloween since it’s been Maher’s “position since the beginning of this.”
“Just resume living,” Maher told his audience. “I know some people seem to not want to give up on the wonderful pandemic, but you know what? It’s over. There’s always going to be a variant. You shouldn’t have to wear masks. I should be to … I haven’t had a meeting with my staff since March of 2020. Why?”
The Atlantic staff writer Caitlin Flanagan told Maher she had “broken up with COVID” after the first year of the pandemic, comparing it to an “abusive” boyfriend.
“And I got the vaccine. I walked out of the CVS. I hadn’t been that thrilled coming out of the drugstore since I got the birth control pill in 1981,” Flanagan quipped. “I’ve had cancer. I’m triple vaxxed. If it gets me, fair play to it because it will put up a fight against me but I’m not staying in my house again.”
Maher then pressed his guest, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., since “it’s the Democrats” that keep enforcing COVID restrictions.
“I travel in every state now, back on the road, and the red states are a joy and the blue states are a pain in the a–. For no reason,” Maher said.
“One of the critical things that’s being discussed right now by President Biden, one of the things we have to recommit ourselves to, is supporting vaccination around the rest of the world,” Coons responded. “There’s still a lot of countries that are very, very minimally vaccinated because if a variant develops out in the world that is able to defeat the vaccine, we are all the way back to the beginning. So in the United States, in most of the western world, we’re ready to be done with this, but we’re not done until the world is safe and we’re not safe as a world until the world’s vaccinated.”
“Except the world recognizes natural immunity. We don’t,” Maher pushed back, “because everything in this country has to go through the pharmaceutical companies. Natural immunity is the best kind of immunity. We shouldn’t fire people who have natural immunity because they don’t get the vaccine. We should hire them. Yes?”
“If someone is having tested with antibodies,” Coons conceded.
“Well, OK. But you know, people who’ve had it – I’ve had it,” Maher said. “I mean, I shouldn’t be tested anymore. I got the vaccine.”
“And if someone’s willing to be a fireman, if someone’s willing to be a policeman, if someone’s willing to go into a burning building and says, ‘I’m just not that afraid of COVID and I don’t want to take the vaccine,’ that should be enough,” Flanagan interjected. “You shouldn’t be losing a job, you shouldn’t be furloughed without pay, the guy that saves lives because he doesn’t want to take the vaccine. It’s ridiculous.”
The HBO star complained about the “messaging” regarding COVID, pointing to people he had seen outside “alone walking with a mask,” stressing “it’s so stupid.”
“It’s an amulet, you know? A charm people wear around the neck that wards away evil spirits. It means nothing,” Maher said. “I mean, can’t we get people to understand the facts more?”
So in both cases, the correct answer is less than 1%. They thought it was over 50. How do people, especially of one party, get such a bad idea? Where did that come from?” Maher asked.
‘Take our chances’
But Maher pushed back on the lack of “consensus” on how many people have actually died from COVID, pointing to the recent passing of former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who Maher pointed out had cancer and Parkinson’s disease but died of “complications from COVID.”
“We’re looking at people with complicated health histories a lot of the time,” Flanagan said. “We’re looking at obesity as an issue but no one wants to say it because it’s body positivity. And we’re looking at poverty. That’s what we need to be focused on, people who live really close together. But there’s a lot of people within different poor communities so don’t want to take it. We just have to take our chances, be thoughtful and careful and go back out there and make sure that people who live in dense housing have complete access to the vaccine. And if they don’t want to take it …”