Is natural immunity "far superior" to COVID-19 vaccines? No, that's not true: Published data show that contracting COVID-19 when unvaccinated can be very dangerous and deadly while getting a vaccine can greatly reduce or prevent serious illness or death of patients who contract COVID-19 after having been vaccinated.
The claim appeared as a post (archived here) where it was published on Facebook on July 28, 2021. It opened:
Israel decided to be the largest study in the world. Thanks to their sacrifice we now know that natural immunity is far superior ...
This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:
(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Tue Aug 3 20:51:01 2021 UTC)
The post is a tweet from Del Bigtree, a leading anti-vaccine activist. Lead Stories has debunked claims by Bigtree here and here.
Israel decided to be the largest study in the world. Thanks to their sacrifice we now know that Natural Immunity is far superior with 1% experiencing re-infection while 40% of new cases were previously Vx'd. Any questions?https://t.co/K3thHGLivR-- Del Bigtree (@delbigtree) July 17, 2021
Bigtree links to an article in the Times of Israel titled, "Are recovered COVID patients more protected than the vaccinated?" The article clearly notes that the data does not accurately represent the new cases:
Citing very preliminary data, Channel 13 reports that those who recovered from COVID-19 may be better protected from reinfection than those who received the vaccine.
Since May 1, 72 people who previously had COVID were infected again, accounting for 1 percent of confirmed new cases, while 3,000 who were vaccinated have been infected -- 40% of confirmed new cases.
Some experts conclude that those who had COVID are relatively safe from reinfection. But other health officials counter that the data does not take into account that new outbreaks did not spread in areas that previously saw massive outbreaks during the pandemic, such as in the ultra-Orthodox community, reports Channel 13."
Lead Stories published a debunk with similar information titled, Fact Check: Public Health Experts Do NOT Say Natural Immunity To COVID Is Stronger Than Vaccine-Based Immunity. The article noted the National Institutes of Health has emphatically stated that COVID-19 vaccines are vastly more effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalizations and deaths than immunity that was acquired by previous infections of COVID-19. A June 2021 study that protective antibodies in mRNA vaccines provide a higher level of protection against COVID-19 than people with acquired immunity.
Dr. Francis Collins, a geneticist and director of the National Institutes of Health (the U.S. government's medical research arm) says vaccine immunity provides greater protection than naturally acquired immunity, based on a study published in June 2021 in "Science Translational Medicine." Collins, who led the human genome project, wrote in the NIH blog:
The new evidence shows that protective antibodies generated in response to an mRNA vaccine will target a broader range of SARS-CoV-2 variants carrying 'single letter' changes in a key portion of their spike protein compared to antibodies acquired from an infection.
These results add to evidence that people with acquired immunity may have differing levels of protection to emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants. More importantly, the data provide further documentation that those who've had and recovered from a COVID-19 infection still stand to benefit from getting vaccinated."
CDC guidance to users of their public information site tracks with NIH advice, noting that research into the duration of natural immunity is still developing, while the effectiveness and safety of COVID vaccines is well understood, as is the potential for serious illness and even death from COVID. CDC advice is that it is safer to be vaccinated than to gamble on getting infected and developing immunity that way.
The claim is inaccurate because the comparison between vaccinated and non-vaccinated people in Israel is out of context. More people are vaccinated in Israel than are unvaccinated in Israel. The number of people who acquired natural immunity is smaller than the group who are vaccinated. Therefore, more people will get infected with COVID-19 who have the vaccine than people who do not have the vaccine. The latest numbers in Israel show that 85% of adults are vaccinated, according to The Washington Post:
It's true that most new cases are coming from the vaccinated community, but that's in large part because of how relatively big that community is in Israel. The latest numbers show that 85 percent of Israeli adults are vaccinated, meaning there are more than five times as many of them as unvaccinated people.