DeSantis on Biden's new vaccine mandate: What about people with natural immunity?

He makes a fair point, one made by others over the past 24 hours. Biden’s idea of an accommodation for workers who don’t want to get vaccinated is to let them get tested weekly instead. But why isn’t there also an accommodation for people who’ve had COVID and can prove it via an antibody test?

According to an Israeli study released two weeks ago, people with natural immunity are better protected against infection than the vaccinated are. Much better if they were infected recently, in fact.

Fauci was asked about this last night on CNN by Sanjay Gupta. Would it surprise you if I told you his answer was … not quite fully accurate?

“The one thing that paper from Israel didn’t tell you is whether or not — as high as the protection is with natural infection — what’s the durability compared to the durability of a vaccine?” he says. But the Israeli study did speak to durability. Researchers used two different methods to study that issue. First they compared people who were infected in January or February of this year to people who received their second dose during the same time frame. Then they compared people who were infected at *any* point prior to the end of February of this year to people who were vaccinated in January or February, when the shots first became available.

Results: Vaccinated people in the first group had 13 times the risk of infection that those with natural immunity did. That relative risk shrank in the second group to six times the risk, but the fact that the vaccinated were still at greater risk than those who’d had COVID much earlier is important. It means that even people who were infected many months before the vaccines were available still had stronger immunity on average as of this year than the recently vaccinated did. “This analysis demonstrated that natural immunity affords longer lasting and stronger protection against infection, symptomatic disease and hospitalization due to the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, compared to the BNT162b2 two-dose vaccine-induced immunity,” the study concluded.

So what is Fauci talking about?

What I think he means is that the Israeli study does show natural immunity waning over time and doesn’t give us any sense of when (if ever) it might wane to the point where a person might become vulnerable to reinfection. In theory, that would be the point when they should be vaccinated to boost their immunity — a superhuman boost, as it turns out. Hybrid immunity, in which a person who’s been infected is later vaccinated, is robust because that person’s immune system has already had a look at the complete virus and evolved sophisticated antibodies to cope with reinfection. When their immune system is given a second look at the spike protein on the virus via vaccination, those antibodies become even more sophisticated, all but foolproof according to studies.

Fauci’s saying, I take it, that we can’t be sure yet based on the Israeli study alone that everyone with natural immunity will continue to be as well protected as people who are vaccinated, especially after a booster. But since there’s every indication from the study that they’re better protected than the vaccinated are *now,* why shouldn’t a federal policy that’s being implemented *now* make an exception to the vaccine mandate for them?

Here’s Ron DeSantis pleading the case for those with natural immunity this afternoon as well as taking some jabs at Biden. Watch, then read on:

One thing that jumps out at me from his comments is how he seems to oppose employer vaccine mandates on the merits, not just as a matter of constitutional overreach by the White House. There’s a legitimate legal question of whether the regulatory power over commerce delegated by Congress to OSHA grants that agency a police power over public health a la what the states enjoy under the Tenth Amendment. But that’s not the crux of DeSantis’s objection. He dislikes Biden’s mandate because he’s worried that unvaccinated workers might lose their jobs if they don’t comply.

Well, that would also happen under a private employer vaccine mandate, which are legal in Florida. Does DeSantis oppose those too even though they’re appropriate under the law and would improve vaccination rates in Florida? Between this and his staunch opposition to vaccine passports, he’s now sided with anti-vaxxers twice over the rights of business owners to run their shops as they see fit.

Exit question via Joel Mathis: What’s the Republican alternative to vaccine mandates to try to contain the pandemic? DeSantis mentions at one point that the U.S. has more cases now than it did a year ago (although he doesn’t mention which state was a key driver of this summer’s ballooning national totals) and he reminds everyone of Biden’s failed pre-Delta promise to “shut down the virus.” It’s a fair cop. So what’s the GOP plan to shut it down? DeSantis has spent the last month touting monoclonal antibodies as an important treatment for COVID, which is good — but that’s part of Biden’s plan too. What is it that Republicans want him to do to bring down cases and hospitalizations that he’s not doing? What would President DeSantis do?