If you’ve had COVID, should NJ give you a vaccine exemption?
Two New Jersey lawmakers held a virtual event with several doctors who spoke in support of recognizing the benefit of natural immunity so that people who've recovered from COVID-19 can be exempt from vaccination requirements.
The event, sponsored by state Sen. Joe Pennacchio, R-Morris, and state Sen. Michael Testa, R-Cape May, was livestreamed on Facebook as a virtual hearing. (Scroll down to watch the hearing.)
One of the invited speakers, Dr. Deborah Ginsburg, a New Jersey family medicine doctor, began her presentation by noting back in May the World Health Organization said natural infection may provide similar protection against symptomatic disease versus vaccination.
“We need a science-based policy shift that recognizes natural infection as proof of immunity against COVID,” she said.
Vaccination versus natural immunity
She said six recent large studies, including one involving U.S. marines, found low re-infection rates in cases where individuals in different countries who were not vaccinated became infected with COVID and recovered.
She said these studies also found between 82% and 95% protection from re-infection, and 97% protection rate against severe illness, which shows those who have had COVID get highly effective protection as a result.
“We have no precedent in medicine for vaccinating people who have either had a particular disease and/or whose blood testing shows protective levels of antibodies," she said.
The power of the human body
Dr. Dawn Gangi, a cosmetic doctor practicing in Morris County, said human beings have the ability to fight infection through their own immune systems.
She said it seems absurd to have to defend natural immunity as legitimate and defend it versus vaccines because “natural immunity has been widely recognized and an accepted principle of infectious disease for over 2,000 years.”
“Natural immunity is foundational, it’s fundamental to the science of immunology and infectious disease, it is immunology 101 in medical school.”
Gangi said it has been an accepted time-honored principle that natural immunity provides stronger, broader, longer immunity than immunity provided by vaccines.
What's the best course of action?
“The one size fits all policy is never good, it’s never good," Ginsburg said.
She argued the immune response from the COVID vaccine “is a ... superficial simple response as opposed to the very complex and deep response that we make when we have a natural infection.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people who have had COVID get vaccinated anyway.
Pennachio and Testa’s legislation, S-4136, would allow entities to accept a person’s verbal confirmation that they have natural immunity due to a prior COVID-19 infection to satisfy any vaccination or testing requirement that may be imposed.
The measure has been referred to the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee for consideration.
Watch the hearing
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.