The same Imperial College of London that wrongly scared the world into lockdown by exponentially overstating the projected casualties of COVID-19 during the first few months is now scaremongering about a supposed lack of immunity to the virus. The problem is its own research demonstrates why most people are already partially immune, even prior to infection, and will certainly not be worse off in terms of long-term immunity after getting the virus.
It has now become clear that the virus is "gonna virus," regardless of what countries do in terms of non-pharmaceutical interventions. The virus will spread to every part of the world until a majority of people are exposed to it in some way. Now that people are increasingly coming to peace with this fact, the Imperial College of London is warning that immunity cannot be achieved and implying that people can get reinfected in a clinically meaningful way in large numbers. And the media are running with it. "COVID-19 herd immunity theory dealt blow by U.K. research," read an emphatically panicked headline from the Financial Times on Tuesday.
There is simply no evidence to support this hypothesis and no reason to believe that the multi-layered immune response to SARS-CoV-2 should be different from that of any other respiratory virus. Moreover, to the extent the pro-lockdown crowd is correct about immunity, then we are all doomed anyway because there is no logical reason why a vaccine for a flu-like virus, which has never worked for any coronavirus to begin with, would somehow work against a virus that does not induce immunity through natural infection.
This week, the Imperial College published a pre-print study showing that antibodies disappeared in 26.5% of those who originally tested positive. The study observed a pool of 365,000 people between June 20 and Sept. 28 and found that over a quarter of those who originally tested positive through home-use finger-prick tests became seronegative by the end of September.
Of course, the implication they are pushing is obvious. "These data suggest the possibility of decreasing population immunity and increasing risk of reinfection as detectable antibodies decline in the population," concluded the authors.
Never mind the fact that lack of presence of detectable antibodies is not uncommon in other viruses and doesn't mean that the body no longer remembers the "recipe" for defeating the virus. What most media articles that have promoted this study as pretext for panic have failed to discuss is that their own findings demonstrate that most people already have inherent immunity without antibodies because antibodies are not the immune system's primary defense for this virus.
The authors observed, "Antibody positivity was greater in those who reported a positive PCR and lower in older people and those with asymptomatic infection." In other words, a number of people who didn't have antibodies either never really had the virus or had it asymptomatically. Numerous studies have already shown that the weaker someone had the infection the more likely the antibodies will wane or will be nonexistent from the get-go. In fact, all my friends who had the virus last month when it hit my zip code in Baltimore County in early fall wound up testing negative for antibodies even just weeks after testing positive for the virus. And that actually indicates good news, not bad news.
The reality is that most people get this virus like a cold. The body doesn't need to produce antibodies for a cold. It doesn't need to waste energy and space keeping your blood full of every antibody you've ever needed to fight every flu and cold.
The likely reason why this virus is presenting itself so mildly in so many people is because most people have robust T cell immunity, primarily from other coronaviruses, an aspect of the immune system the Imperial College authors admitted they did not study. A comprehensive study from Singapore showed that people who never had COVID-19 but recovered from SARS-1 had cross-reactive T cells to SARS-CoV-2 17 years later! This was true of every blood sample the researchers tested. Numerous other studies have shown similar results. It's therefore very unlikely that someone who gets infected with SARS-CoV-2 itself will somehow gain less immunity against future infection than someone who had another coronavirus.
And the same reason why those people were immune to serious illness the first time will undoubtedly protect them the second time to the extent that some might be exposed again and test positive for a trace of the virus. As one comprehensive T cell study from Sweden found, "SARS-CoV-2 induces robust memory T cell responses in antibody-seronegative and antibody-seropositive individuals with asymptomatic or mild COVID-19." The study showed that "SARS-CoV-2 elicits robust memory T cell responses akin to those observed in the context of successful vaccines, suggesting that natural exposure or infection may prevent recurrent episodes of severe COVID-19 also in seronegative individuals."
Another study from over a dozen researchers around the world found that 93% of "exposed asymptomatic" individuals in their study group produced a T cell response to SARS-CoV-2, even though antibodies were not detected in 40% of them.
There is a very strong possibility that this is why countries like Singapore and other Pacific Rim countries, that found a lot of people who tested positive for the virus, barely had anyone get clinically ill from it. They likely had more built-up memory T cell immunity from existing coronaviruses. Now that a significant portion of Western countries have gotten this novel form of coronavirus, the worst-case scenario is that some might test positive again for a trace of the virus, but the results of a hypothetical second round in the West shouldn't be worse than the first round in a country like Taiwan, where just seven people have died.
The long-term immunity even from other viruses was observed in a brand-new study by Israeli researchers. They found that "individuals with diagnoses for common cold symptoms, including acute sinusitis, bronchitis, or pharyngitis in the preceding year" had a 26.3% lower risk of even testing positive for SARS-CoV-2, much less developing strong symptoms.
According to a recent U.K. study, roughly 86% of those infected in the study sample did not report any symptoms. The majority of the remaining cases are usually sub-clinical and often very mild. This is a phenomenon we've observed in the U.S. from entire confined populations that were infected, such as prisoners and meatpacking workers. It's not those people we need to worry about, because they clearly already had partial immunity, even without ever having confronted this particular coronavirus. What we obviously don't want is those who got it seriously to then be reinfected again. But there is no evidence that those people lose their antibody immunity in large numbers, much less T cell immunity. We never test for any virus millions of times each and every day. If we did this for other viruses, we would undoubtedly find a small but noticeable number of people who are technically reinfected, but how many are going to get serious symptoms twice?
Between antibodies and T and long-term B cells, there is no more likelihood of that occurring with this virus more than any other virus for all but those whose immune systems are completely destroyed. And if those cells cannot be marshalled to stimulate an immune response to block reinfection from invading the body, then there is no logical reason a vaccine would ever work.
How ironic that the media is turning to the same institution that induced the unprecedented first wave of panic as a source to create long-term panic. Let's not forget that using the Imperial College model, there should have been "at least 96,000 deaths" in Sweden by July 1. Well, it's the end of October, and Sweden has fewer than 6,000 deaths, even with a very liberal method of counting.
While there is no evidence of lack of immunity to this virus, it's quite evident that the media will never be immune to a reinfection of false panic. God doesn't provide us with these wonderous T cells to ward off that misinformation. He simply gave us brain cells.