Is T-cell immunity a better indicator of COVID-19 immunity? [Op-Ed]

by mcardinal

Lauren Dempsey, MS in Biomedicine and Law, RN, FISM News 


Throughout the pandemic prior immunity and natural immunity have mysteriously been discredited by scientific, medical, and governmental authorities. Yet, we know that the human immune system is incredibly complex and has the ability to protect from infection and disease that scientists and healthcare providers are still learning about.

With COVID-19, the primary push has been the development of antibodies in response to vaccination. While antibodies are an important factor, medical studies have shown that they are not the sole factor in determining immunity.

A study from August 2020 highlights the importance of memory T-cells in providing protection from COVID-19. This new research reveals that memory T-cells may “protect some people newly infected with SARS-CoV-2 by remembering past encounters with other human coronaviruses.”

Another study from the La Jolla Institute for Immunology, revealed that in their research the “levels of T cells for the virus also remained high after infection. Six months after symptom onset, 92% of participants had CD4+ T cells that recognized the virus. These cells help coordinate the immune response. About half the participants had CD8+ T cells, which kill cells that are infected by the virus.”

Individuals come in contact with millions of viruses and bacteria daily and the immune system has the ability to identify pathogens that one has been exposed to before. The goal of the immune system is to prevent infection and it does this by recognizing healthy or damaged cells and deploying specific cells to identify, mark, and destroy pathogens. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci substantiated these findings, when he said last year that “antibodies prevent the virus from getting in. So that’s kind of like the first line of defense,” but “for those viruses that do escape and infect some cells, the T-cells come in and kill the cells that are infected or block them.” Fauci also explained that while research has been focused on antibody testing, T-cells are an “equally important component of the immune system.”

Even with research showing that natural immunity may be long lasting, much longer than the vaccine induced immunity that has shown to wane six months post-vaccination, some refuse to trust this science. Instead government and medical officials are prescribing a one-size fits all medical standard to prevent infection on a global scale.

Ajay Sethi, the faculty director for the Master of Public Health program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine & Public Health said “natural infection does produce an immune response, but not all immune responses will be durable enough and heightened enough to ward off reinfection at some point,” furthering his point that vaccines provide the preferable and more reliable method of immunity. 

However, it seems that no one can agree on how to move forward, government officials contradict themselves, and “trust the science” only applies if you subscribe to a specific narrative. There have been numerous studies done on the safety and efficacy of vaccination, the importance of natural immunity, and potential life-saving treatments outside of preventative interventions like inoculation. 

Defeating COVID-19 and ending the pandemic has hinged on finding a cure, which instead of treatment options that work, has been the accelerated production of vaccines and mass vaccination across the globe. Nineteen months later, America’s leaders are still locking down cities and states in an effort to contain a pathogen for which social distancing, masking, handwashing, and vaccination has proven to not been highly effective in curbing the infection and death rate.

It is time that leaders and healthcare providers look to methods of treating and caring for patients rooted in established and trusted science, such as natural immunity and previous infection, to be able to move forward.