New Phase Initiated by Omicron
Recently I became acquainted with a virologist here in PDX who, working at OHSU, helped develop an antibody test for covid. The test he developed has not gained wide usage.
The virus makes 20+ proteins for which our bodies make antibodies, but the vaccines contain only the spike protein. What this means is that we can tell if people have had the virus, or if they have just had the vaccine. IMO this would be useful information at the population level.
It is still possible for us to know how many people have had the virus. Many people have probably had it but didn't know because they were asymptomatic. Many others have probably had it but don't know because testing wasn't available--especially early in the pandemic. Of course there are pockets of population who still haven't been exposed--but Omicron is reaching many of them. We will not have a good sense of the immunity level of humans on earth until we know the proportion who've had the disease.
Tracking the proportion who've had the vaccine is easier. I have a vaccination card that shows that I've had 3 jabs so far. For me it was mandatory because I work in healthcare. It was also a no-brainer because I'm old and fat enough that covid posed a significant risk, whereas the vaccine poses a miniscule risk. Sure, it's uncomfortable and unpleasant to deal with the symptoms after vaccination. I have some tricks for minimizing that. But basically I agree with the vaccine pushers that getting the vast majority of us stuck makes good sense.
Infection does confer a higher level of immunity than the vaccine. This is because the virus makes those 20+ proteins and our immune systems recognize all of them. The vaccine only contains one protein, the spike. When you've had the virus, your body knows 19 more ways to recognize the virus than if you've just had the vaccine.
Our bodies have T-cells that remember viral proteins that they have met, and go on attack whenever the virus is in us. T-cell immunity is different from antibodies. T-cells last 10-20 years after an infection. B-cells make antibodies and some of them stick around a long time too. "Memory" B-cells live for years and make antibodies for an infection for about 6 months, then they go on break. They are still there to make more antibodies if needed.
Years after vaccination you still have memory B-cells that can resume antibody production, and T-cells that can go on the attack. Unless. Unless you are immune compromised somehow. Unless you get measles, which actually KILLS memory B-cells. This is why I recommend that most people get the MMR vaccine too. It protects you from the damages done by measles, which are more than most people realize.
The nugget here is that the immune system is complicated and managing a pandemic is even more complicated. The public messaging is simplistic. Public health officials are trying to get everyone to take the jab. This is for the benefit of the population; we do it for each other. What I wish that public health as an institution would do for us is invest in antibody testing AND some ways of evaluating immune function so that we can move forward and leave this pandemic era behind.
The world will never be the same again. Those of us who've lived through this pandemic are changed. So many people are dead. Some near to me. Some far away. Wearing a mask is hard. Being isolated from people is hard. But in spite of this we are resilient and we who have survived so far have a good chance of continuing to survive. Let us unite in caring for each other, in being decent to each other.
Let us plan ahead for the possibility of another pandemic in our lifetimes. The increasing density of humans on the planet increases the odds of pandemics. The crowding of our food animals also increases the odds. Rather than pretending that the conditions for pandemic-making are the same as they were in the past, we need to collectively recognize the reality of our situation and do our best to be prepared. It is never over.