Two recent reports have confirmed that vaccines cannot stop transmission of the virus, however, it does prevent the severity of the disease.
This puts naturally-recovered people on better footing as reports have shown that such people rarely contribute to the community's spread of the virus. It also suggests that natural infection can only prevent any upcoming wave.
The national public health agency of the United States – The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that during July 2021, 469 residents of Massachusetts contracted Covid-19, out of which, approximately 74% were fully vaccinated.
This means that 346 residents had taken both the doses of either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna or a single dose of Janssen (Johnson & Johnson). The good news is that only 4 were hospitalised and no death has been reported yet.
Interestingly, the reports say that the RT-PCR threshold (Ct) values in specimens from 127 vaccinated persons with breakthrough cases were similar to those from 84 unvaccinated persons, not fully vaccinated, or whose vaccination status was unknown.
Earlier, government data in Singapore on breakthrough the infection showed that 75 percent of cases of Covid-19 came from those people who were fully or partially vaccinated.
Out of the total of 1096 cases of Covid-19 in 28 days in Singapore, 484 (44 percent) were fully vaccinated with both doses while 329 (30 percent) had taken only one dose of either Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and Moderna.
However, only one person needed Oxygen support from the vaccinated lot which establishes that the vaccine helps reduce the severity of Covid-19.
Infectious disease experts say that there is no significant difference between transmission risk from vaccinated or unvaccinated individuals.
According to Dr. Sanjay Rai, Professor at the Centre for Community Medicine at AIIMS, “The current COVID-19 vaccine does significantly reduce the severity of the disease and consequent mortality. This is the biggest advantage of vaccination.”
“But if one were to compare the naturally infected group with the vaccinated group; the naturally infected group has better immune protection (longer duration, and lower reinfection rate) than the vaccinated group.”
Dr. Rai is of the view that most likely, herd immunity will be achieved primarily through natural infection and not by the existing vaccines.
Some health experts are of the view that while a vaccine develops immunity in the human body against the virus, it doesn’t develop an RBD-specific antibody that can prevent the Sars_Cov_2 virus from entering into the body.
Dr. Samrat D Shah, internal medicine specialist and honorary internist to the Governor of Maharashtra, says “Vaccines don’t help develop many specific antibodies and one of them is RBD-specific antibodies. That’s why people remain vulnerable to infection.”
Gyaneshwar Chaubey, a professor of genetics at Banaras Hindu University (BHU) agrees that natural infection has an advantage on vaccination however, the latter plays a vital role in saving lives.
“The breakthrough infections shouldn’t be a surprise for countries where there is an outbreak of delta variant, however, there is a sharp decrease in mortality which is indicative that vaccines are highly effective in saving lives,” Chaubey said.
Infectious disease experts are of the view that keeping the benefits of the vaccine in mind, the government should adopt the policy of targeted vaccination, not the random one which is currently going on.
Dr. Ishwarprasad Gilada, Secretary-General of Organised Medicine Academic Guild (OMAG), a federation of 15 professional associations of post-graduate doctors in India, says that many places in Mumbai which were severely affected during the first wave provide clear evidence that natural Infection provides better immunity than Vaccination.
“Worli Koliwada and Dharavi in Mumbai had a lot of infection in the first wave, so much so that it was close to herd immunity. As a result, during the second wave, there were very few infections in these two localities,” Dr. Gilada said.
He added, “Hence if we can segregate the naïve population from the Covid-19-recovered one and vaccinate them, it has multiple benefits. We can reach the needy ones faster and earlier. Random vaccination not only delays in saving the lives of those who are vulnerable but it also puts huge pressure on the country’s healthcare system as well as cause massive expenditure.”