HUGO DELGADO/LUSA

New data shows ‘natural Covid infection’ leaves people better protected than if they take the vaccine

New scientific data shows that if a person is infected with SARS-CoV-2 and goes onto develop Covid-19 and recovers, they will be better protected against incoming variants than a person who has been vaccinated.

Immunologist Luís Graça of the DGS health authority technical vaccination commission explains: “Natural infection exposes us to all the proteins of the virus – not just one like the vaccine – leading to a wider response by the immune system. Even someone who has a low level of antibodies will be protected by T-lymphocytes, a cellular protection – and given this response directed at more viral proteins, new variants will have more difficulty entering the organism”.

Having the disease, even without any symptoms, has another advantage, writes Expresso.

“The entrance of the virus through the respiratory system – not through muscles as happens with inoculation – leads to the production of both lgG and lgA antibodies going into mucus and can have a greater impact against infection. This is why some laboratories, including those in Portugal, are trying to produce an inhalable vaccine”, Luís Graça continues.

But it’s a lottery, as of course infection can cause serious consequences – and due to this Portuguese experts cited in the press all ‘recommend’ that people decide to take up the offer of to be vaccinated.

Expresso’s article has some ‘grey areas’ nonetheless. For example, it stresses that no-one knows how long natural immunity lasts (which is why health authorities are recommending that anyone who has had Covid-19 and recovered should have at least one shot of a vaccine six months after recovery).

What Expresso and its assembled experts don’t explain is that no-one knows how long immunity conferred by the vaccines lasts either.

According to Henrique Viega Fernandes, co director of the Champalimaud Institute vaccines confer a more ‘homogenised response’ to the virus and ‘more advanced robustness’ when it comes to response in older age groups.

But no-one can put their hands in the fire yet and say immunity conferred by the vaccines is longer-lasting than that acquired naturally.

What is clear, from a new study published in the Lancet, is that the secondary effects reported as a result of people receiving the vaccines “are more relevant among those that have already had the infection” (ie people who have had Covid-19 and recovered from it).

Says Expresso, this may sound bad, but it is in fact the opposite. “To have symptoms, fever or mialgias shows a much stronger immune response”, explains Viera Fernandes.

As more and more Portuguese are rolling up their sleeves at vaccination centres up and down the country, “the scientific community is preparing new rules to dispense with measures of protection like masks and physical distancing”, says Expresso.

“The ECDC (European Centre for Disease Control) has published guidance and prime minister António Costa has asked experts to prepare a model to follow as soon as all the population at risk is immune” (meaning age-groups from 60 upwards).

The paper says that investigators “are working on the return to normality being possible from the end of the month”.

“NO PLANS YET TO VACCINATE HEALTHY CHILDREN”

This is another side story in Expresso today, coming in light of Pfizer’s guarantee that its vaccine is 100% effective in the age groups from 12-15. 

Canada is to start rolling out the vaccine to 12-15 year-olds from next week; the United States also. Portugal however ‘is awaiting guidance from Europe’.

Says the paper: “Portugal is among countries with the greatest adhesion to the vaccines in the world, thus there is not expected to be elevated resistance” to the notion of inoculating healthy children.

DGS guidelines have already opened up the vaccine to children with serious illnesses or being treated in hospitals.

Expresso’s understanding is that all it will take to move this along to including healthy children is “a recommendation by EMA (the European Medicines Agency) and Infarmed (Portugal’s medicines agency).

The paper does stress that “in line with what has been defined by the adult population, pediatric vaccination will be optional. The first echoes coming out of the United States are not enthusiastic. A large majority of parents are not convinced of the benefits of immunising their children, fearing eventual adverse side effects in the long term”.

Again this is a fear that has been little addressed through the vaccination process, just as it is barely ever mentioned that pharmaceutical companies producing vaccines against Covid-19 have been issued with indemnities ensuring that they can never be held accountable if adverse side effects become apparent  over the course of time (click here).

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com