Republican lawmakers in several states are pushing vaccine mandate exemptions for workers who have so-called natural immunity due to a previous COVID-19 infection.
That’s despite evidence that vaccination can reduce the risk of COVID-19 even for those with a history of infection, and the fact that there’s no easy way to assess the protection provided by prior infection, CBS News reported.
Florida, West Virginia and Arkansas are among GOP-led states requiring employers to provide an exemption for workers with “natural immunity.” Republicans in Alabama, Idaho, New Hampshire, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas and Wyoming are also trying to implement measures to protect unvaccinated workers who can prove they had a prior infection.
“Unlike what you see going on with some of the federal proposed mandates, other states, is we’re actually doing a science-based approach,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said last week, CBS News reported.
DeSantis recently signed a bill he touted as the strongest “anti-mandate action taken by any state.” It includes “medical evidence that the employee has immunity to COVID-19” among a list of exemptions employers must allow in their COVID vaccination policies.
“We recognize people that have natural immunity. You have natural immunity. Whatever a private employer wants to do, you’re automatically exempt because of natural immunity,” DeSantis said.
In a science brief last month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there is “clear evidence” that survivors of COVID-19 can have antibodies that are “approximately equivalent” to two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
However, not all COVID-19 survivors can avoid getting reinfected or spreading the disease to others, and measuring whether survivors have antibody levels similar to those provided by vaccination is out of the reach of most Americans.
To date, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has only authorized serology tests to determine whether it’s likely a person has been exposed to the coronavirus in the past, not to show if they’re protected against reinfection, CBS News reported.
But a recent CDC study of hospitalized COVID-19 patients found that unvaccinated adults with a previous coronavirus infection had a five times higher risk of testing positive than those who were fully vaccinated with Pfizer or Moderna.
“At least right now, if you had COVID-19, particularly if you had it months and months ago, it’s probably a good idea to get vaccinated,” Dr. Peter Marks, the FDA’s top vaccines official, said during a recent webinar hosted by the American Medical Association.
“This is not like getting measles back in March. If you had measles back in March, you’re probably going to be immune now, but that’s not the true thing for COVID-19,” Marks said.
Visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for more on COVID vaccines.
SOURCE: CBS News