Public health officials around the world are acknowledging that variants of SARS-COV-2 are infecting fully vaccinated populations. They say not to worry.
They have a point:
- Vaccines work by preventing illness, not infection.
- It is the natural evolution of viruses to learn to evade immune system behavior, usually becoming less dangerous in the process.
One should therefore expect that vaccine efficacy will decline over time, leading to higher infection rates and even some illness among the vaccinated. We needn’t worry so long as the illness rates for the population as a whole remain lower than they would have been without any vaccination at all.
There are, however, other factors to consider. For example, is vaccination immunity superior to natural infection immunity?
Israel — one of the most vaccinated countries in the world (60%) — is experiencing a surge in new Covid-19 infections. Notably, “The people who are not testing positive in the current outbreak are those who have had COVID-19 previously and recovered. These people account for 9% of Israel’s population but less than 1% of recent infections…”
The observation is suggestive, not definitive, but there are two ways to think about it:
- Natural immunity is more robust than the immunity conferred by the current crop of vaccines.
- The vaccines Israel is using “invite” infection by one or more of the newer virus variants.
Or, more simply, the vaccinated population has become a “safe place” for the virus to live and continue mutating.
The observation does not argue for or against the benefits of vaccination. Even if the virus has learned to live among the vaccinated, the vaccinated may remain better protected from serious illness, at least for awhile.