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Is natural immunity a safe and reliable alternative to covid vaccination?

The Sioux Falls Public Health Director discusses how well natural immunity is a safe and...
The Sioux Falls Public Health Director discusses how well natural immunity is a safe and effective alternative to the COVID vaccine.(KSFY)
Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 9:30 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - You may have heard it from someone you know, or read it on a social media page:

“Why not just get COVID? We’re all going to get it anyway. The faster we all get it, the faster the spread will stop.”

In last week’s State of the State address, Governor Kristi Noem announced a bill she is bringing to this legislative session that would protect people’s right to a medical or religious exemption from COVID vaccines.

Within that bill, she said, “we will recognize natural immunity.”

According to Dr. Charles Chima - the City of Sioux Falls Health Director who has a master of epidemiology from the University of London - just getting the virus so the body will create antibodies against COVID is not a safe alternative to getting the vaccine.

“I strongly discourage anyone from intentionally exposing themselves to Covid-19 in the hope of getting immunity from it, because this virus is unpredictable,” Chima said.

Citing data from “one of the most intensely monitored and scrutinized vaccines in history,” Chima said, “we know that for sure you’re better off if you’re vaccinated” than if you rely on natural immunity to stave off Covid-19 from coming back into your body.

Natural immunity has been proven to work for the measles, whose patients are not likely to get measles again, but natural immunity is different with the coronavirus, Chima said. No Federal Drug Administration-approved test has been able to tell the level of immunity from future Covid-19 contraction that is guaranteed for each individual.

“We’re not sure who is going to get a high level of immunity from it, and we’re not sure how long it will last,” Chima said, citing droves of Federal Drug Administration and Center for Disease Control research of natural immunity waning quickly in many COVID patients, “perhaps in about three months, and in some, even less.”

According to the CDC, if you have had Covid-19 before and are not vaccinated, your risk of re-infection is more than two times higher than if you get the shot.

Chima recommends getting a vaccine about a week from the end of your coronavirus infection.

“We know for sure that there are a lot of people throughout this pandemic who have suffered from Covid-19 a few times, and unfortunately some people have died from it a second time around,” Chima said.

“We’re talking about life and death, right? We can’t take chances. With vaccines, you know what you’re getting.”

Chima is fully aware of skepticism from a sector of the population who refuses to vaccinate and trust the world’s leading epidemiologists, including the FDA, the CDC, and John’s Hopkins Medicine.

But for anyone doubtful of the COVID vaccine’s safety, he cites the Sioux Falls area coronavirus dashboard.

“More than 500 people have died in of Covid-19 in the past two years,” Chima said. “We don’t have any record of anyone who we know in our community who got a vaccine and died from the vaccine.

“The outcomes have been monitored closely. The CDC, the FDA, they’ve all taken this very seriously for a long time and over a lot of studies, and they’re continuing to monitor the vaccine to see if there are any side effects. Today, we have not seen any side effects to worry about any long term consequences.”

Over 150,000 people in Minnehaha and Lincoln counties have received the vaccine, and Chima said “we have not seen any significant side effect to be worried about.”

Currently, more than 140 people are being treated for coronavirus - and some are still dying from it - in Sioux Falls hospitals.

As of Tuesday, of the 231 people were being treated for Covid-19 in the 22 Sanford Health-owned hospitals, 70 percent of are unvaccinated. Worse:

* 82 percent of those in the intensive care unit are unvaccinated

* 89 percent of those on ventilators are unvaccinated

What would Chima say to anyone distrusting of this medical data from places like the CDC, FDA, and local/regional health care systems?

“I understand that right now, the public trust in institutions is kind of low,” Chima said. “It’s not just the individuals’ fault. It’s the fault of the failure of the system as a whole. Overall, we need to do a better job at communicating. We need to do a better job at educating.

“But while we continue to work on addressing all the confusion and misinformation (from those who oppose the vaccine), I just want to remind people that COVID is not past tense. COVID is still very much a threat today, a risk in our community that is still affecting people.”

According to WebMD, 80 percent of people who have COVID suffer mild to moderate systems.

About 14 percent of cases are severe, with an infection that affects both lungs, leading to a shortage of breath, which is what leads many covid patients to the hospital and on ventilators, or worse.

Also, whether COVID forces you into the hospital or not, whether you suffer excruciating symptoms or not, Chima said if you contract “long covid,” you will continue to suffer symptoms “for a long time” after your infection has been cleared.

Millions of people throughout the world have been monitored and studied by leading health institutions long after they’ve had lung covid.

“People are complaining of psychological symptoms,” Chima said. “Some people are dealing with chronic fatigue, always feeling tired. A lot of symptoms that are very debilitating, and that’s tied to their original infection. So even if you survive COVID, and perhaps get a degree of immunity from it, you could suffer from long covid, and you don’t want to risk that.

“I’d rather go with the safety of the vaccines than taking the risk.”

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