Dr. Marcel Curlin, associate professor of medicine at Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine, joined CNN’s Jim Sciutto to discuss what he sees as an “eventual end game” to the COVID-19 pandemic that has plagued the world for nearly two years.
Sciutto introduced the segment with the news that there appears to be an incredible immune response to the coronavirus in people who have been fully vaccinated and experienced a breakthrough case of infection.
Curlin, who co-authored the studies that revealed this information, expanded on what it means to the population at large.
“Those people fully vaccinated compared with those who were fully vaccinated and then got infection after that, in all cases the infections were mild, but when you compare the immune responses, they’re astronomical astronomically higher in vaccinated [people],” he explained.
“Okay. And how long?” Sciutto asked. “Because there has been an essential question throughout the pandemic as to how long immunity post-infection lasts as compared to immunity post-vaccination.”
“[W]e haven’t had the time to study this longitudinally since we just did the study,” Dr. Curlin admitted. “One aspect is that the immune — though antibodies wane over time, people develop a memory response, right, so six months or a year down the road, if we fast-forward and get reexposed, you get a much better immune response because of the memory phenomenon.”
Dr. Curlin further admitted that this study was done before the Omicron variant was discovered meaning that it’s unclear what, if any, role that variable will play. However, studies with past variants of the virus indicate that “the combined immunity [of vaccine plus infection] did better against those variants.”
The CNN host then attempted to make clear that this wasn’t a call for people to intentionally infect themselves with the virus. Dr. Curlin confirmed this, reminding him that the study was done on those who had already been vaccinated.
“You definitely need to be vaccinated. Nothing in the data suggests you should avoid vaccination,” he explained. “On the contrary, we need that combined immunity. By the same token, we would never recommend trying to get Covid in order to avoid getting Covid. That would be self-defeating. If you — it is much better not to get infected. If you do and you’re also vaccinated, then hopefully your infection will be milder and you’ll have a good immune response.”
“Just briefly, does this point in your view to the potential end of the pandemic? As more of the population is both vaccinated, but also many folks getting exposed?” Sciutto asked, closing out the interview.
“That’s right. That’s exactly one of the things we have our eye on. About half of the world population had at least a dose of the vaccine. More infections are unfortunately happening. And as new waves and surges come, many people get disheartened. They think that maybe we’re going to have endless cycles of infection. It feels that way. But what we’re saying here with these results is while actually as more of the world becomes immune through the two means, vaccine and natural infection, we’re going to eventually have a world population that is much stronger and able to fight off the virus. I think that what we’re saying here is this will taper down the epidemic and the severity in its destructive nature,” the doctor advised.
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