TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Republicans fighting President Joe Biden’s coronavirus vaccine mandates are wielding a new weapon against the White House rules: natural immunity.
They contend that people who have recovered from the virus have enough immunity and antibodies to not need COVID-19 vaccines, and the concept has been invoked by Republicans as a sort of stand-in for vaccines.
Florida wrote natural immunity into state law this week as GOP lawmakers elsewhere are pushing similar measures to sidestep vaccine mandates. Lawsuits over the mandates have also begun leaning on the idea. Conservative federal lawmakers have implored regulators to consider it when formulating mandates.
Scientists acknowledge that people previously infected with COVID-19 have some level of immunity but that vaccines offer a more consistent level of protection. Natural immunity is also far from a one-size-fits-all scenario, making it complicated to enact sweeping exemptions to vaccines.
That’s because how much immunity COVID-19 survivors have depends on how long ago they were infected, how sick they were, and if the virus variant they had is different from mutants circulating now. For example, a person who had a minor case one year ago is much different than a person who had a severe case over the summer when the delta variant was raging through the country. It’s also difficult to reliably test whether someone is protected from future infections.