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EDITORIAL: Natural immunity, vaccines knocking out COVID

The United States reached a major milestone this week, as 50 percent of American adults are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The pandemic is in retreat with daily confirmed cases falling below 25,000.

Thank the ingenuity of the U.S. pharmaceutical industry. Big Pharma makes a convenient progressive punching bag — until it doesn’t. Without the private-sector innovators who produced these vaccines in record time, the country — indeed, the world — would likely still be at the mercy of the virus.

The news continues to be optimistic on the vaccine front. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that about 10,000 cases of COVID infections in inoculated individuals had been recorded through April — or just 0.0007 percent of those vaccinated. Very few of these required hospitalization. This further attests to both the safety and the effectiveness of the shots.

And there’s more good news about the country’s ability to kill the virus. A Washington University School of Medicine study published this week in the journal Nature finds that those who have survived COVID likely have immunity for much longer than thought — and perhaps forever.

The study involved the examination of bone marrow samples. Subjects who had recovered from the virus were found to still have some level of immune response that specifically targeted COVID-19.

“Here, we found antibody-producing cells in people 11 months after first symptoms,” said Ali Ellebedy, the study’s author and an associate professor of pathology and immunology of medicine and of molecular microbiology. “These cells will live and produce antibodies for the rest of people’s lives. That’s strong evidence for long-lasting immunity.”

The conclusion was similar to a National Institutes of Health report from January, which found “durable immune responses in the majority of people studied” who had recovered from the coronavirus. “Several months ago, our studies showed that natural infection induced a strong response, and this study now shows that the responses last,” Dr. Daniela Weiskopf said.

This means there are far more Nevadans walking around with immunity than those who have received the shots. But that shouldn’t minimize the importance of vaccinations, even for those who have had COVID. The combination of natural immunity and immunization carries an even more potent punch than either alone.

“People who were infected and get vaccinated really have a terrific response, a terrific set of antibodies, because they continue to evolve their antibodies,” Dr. Michel. Nussenzweig, an immunologist at Rockefeller University in New York, told The New York Times. “I expect that they will last for a long time.”

The light fast approaching shines brighter and brighter.

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