The first person to die from the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in the U.S. had already been infected with COVID in the past, further discrediting “natural immunity” claims made by conservative politicians who oppose mask and vaccine mandates.
The victim who died was a male between 50 and 60 years old who had been infected previously with COVID-19. Health officials described him as being “at higher risk of severe complications from COVID-19 due to his unvaccinated status and underlying health conditions.” The death occurred in Harris County, Texas.
“We urge all residents who qualify to get vaccinated and get their booster shot if they have not already,” Harris County Public Health Director Barbie Robinson said.
COVID reinfections are not something that is often seen, but they do occur. It has been difficult for researchers to determine the coronavirus reinfection rate in the U.S. due to limited resourcesThis means that current estimates are likely to be an underestimate. However, individual states have identified hundreds more cases of reinfection.
A study that was published last week from the Imperial College of London demonstrated that the Omicron variant has a higher reinfection rate than previous strains of the virus — in fact, the risk of getting reinfected by Omicron is 5.4 times higher than the risk of getting reinfected by the Delta variant.
Researchers in the study also noted that there’s no evidence that Omicron is any less severe than previous variants, despite several media reports claiming otherwise.
These findings further discredit the “natural immunity” strategy that has been pushed by several Republican lawmakers. To avoid vaccine mandates for workers, even those in the health-care industry, some Republican politicians have suggested that prior COVID-19 diagnoses should be considered equivalentto be vaccinated in order to protect against the virus.
Last month, Gov. Ron DeSantis (Republican from Florida) signed a law that stipulated that proof of a coronavirus diagnosis is sufficient to satisfy federal vaccine regulations. erroneously claiming that recognizing “natural immunity” was a “science-based approach.” At least two other states — West Virginia and Arkansas — have passed similar laws.
This is a dangerous strategy, according to evidence. While people who have been previously infected by COVID usually have some immunity, they are not immune to the virus. levels of immunity are not consistent Vaccinations offer greater protection than vaccines. Immunity to previous coronavirus infections decreases over time. Getting vaccinated provides additional protection, even if the person has already been infected.
One Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that adults who had not been vaccinated for the virus were more likely to be diagnosed with it than those who had been previously diagnosed. were five times more likely to be reinfectedCoronavirus patients who received Moderna or Pfizer shots after the event were more likely to get re-infected than those who did not have coronavirus. Because the Omicron variant comes with a higher likelihood of reinfection, health experts are recommending that everyone get vaccinated and boosted — even those who have already had coronavirus.
“This is not like getting measles back in March. If you had measles back in March, you’re probably going to be immune now, but that’s not the true thing for COVID-19,” said Peter Marks, head of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.