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Why natural immunity doesn’t stop the omicron variant

The omicron variant spreads to those with immunity

Photo of the coronavirus.
This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the virus that causes COVID-19.
NIAID-RML via Associated Press

The theory that natural immunity can stop you from getting COVID-19 doesn’t work when it comes to the omicron variant, according to Dr. Hilary Fairbrother, an emergency medicine physician based in Houston, Texas.

The omicron variant continues to spread throughout the country, leading to record-level COVID-19 cases and increased hospitalizations among the unvaccinated.

For a while, there’s been an ongoing theory that natural immunity can protect you from getting COVID-19. In many ways, that has proven true.

  • For example, experts said fully vaccinated people infected with the omicron variant have “super immunity” to COVID-19, as I wrote for the Deseret News.

The omicron variant may show that the theory is wrong, especially because the omicron variant can reinfect people.

  • “This idea of natural immunity is not really panning out with this virus,” Fairbrother said on Yahoo Finance Live. “I think part of that is because omicron has so many mutations, and there’s really no way to know what the next variant will have.”
  • “I think the problem with herd immunity is that is really taking into account that this virus won’t mutate significantly and we might not have a very significant variant roaming around that has nothing to do with omicron that really doesn’t see any natural immunity from people who have been sick with omicron,” Fairbrother said.

Another COVID-19 variant could come soon as the omicron variant spread. For example, The Daily Beast reported about a potential new COVID-19 variant could evade vaccines and antibodies, and have increased transmissibility.

  • “Viruses evolve to survive. That can mean greater transmissibility, antibody-evasion or more serious infection. Omicron mutated for the former two. There’s a chance some future Sigma or Upsilon lineage could do all three,” according to The Daily Beast.