COVID-19Drugs & MedicationsInfectious DiseasesPreventive MedicineRespiratory


SARS-CoV-2 is the gift that keeps on giving. More commonly known as COVID-19, this virus refuses to sit down and shut up. News about this scourge on society just keeps popping up with something new all the time—a new outbreak, a new long-term complication, a new variant, or some nuance about the various vaccines—it has confused Americans for three years.

This time the news happens to be about immunity to the virus, and in some ways it is encouraging. COVID-19 researchers have identified four types of immunity to the virus. These types are:

     1. Natural Immunity—that acquired by being infected by the COVID-19 virus

     2. Vaccine Generated Immunity—that acquired by receiving a COVID-19 vaccine

     3. Hybrid Immunity—that acquired by having the infection and also being vaccinated

          against the virus. (I thought the vaccine was supposed to keep you from getting it!)

     4. Herd Immunity—that acquired when a significant percentage of a community of people

          is immune to a contagious disease so there is no one left to transmit the infection.

A “review of studies found that people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and have had a previous SARS-CoV-2 infection….have better protection against the Omicron variant than those with only a previous infection.” 

Hybrid immunity was still 97% effective after 12 months while natural immunity was 75% effective. 

The “take home message” here is that people with hybrid immunity benefit in the following ways:

     1. They are better protected against the Omicron variant

     2. They are less likely to need COVID-19 vaccine booster doses as soon as people

           vaccinated but never infected with the virus. 

Hybrid immunity provides better protection, but it is not a reason to omit recommended vaccine booster doses. As I mentioned, COVID-19 refuses to go away, as much as we all want it to. But it’s sorta good news about hybrid immunity. One factor people need to remember is scientists estimate this “immunity” lasts only 7-8 months “maybe longer,” which contradicts the data cited in the study. That’s not good news, but I guess some immunity is better than none at all. We’ll take a little optimistic news when we can get it.

Reference: MEDICAL NEWS IN BRIEF: “Hybrid Immunity More Protective Than Prior SARS-CoV-2 Infection Alone” JAMA 2023 Feb 21;329(7):531.

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