By Amy Rogers,MD, PhD
Natural Immunity and Muscosal Antibodies
A reader asked about a friend who is “monitoring his immune level” as a way to protect himself against COVID19 without getting vaccinated. This friend also believes “discussion about natural immunity is being suppressed.”
Monitoring Your Immune Level
To say you are “monitoring your immune level” is akin to saying you are monitoring your health. Neither health nor immunity is a single thing, but rather a complicated mixture of many things. You can certainly find measures that give you a sense of your health or immune status, but it’s not like there is a test or even a batch of tests that can say you are “healthy” or “immune” unless you mean something very specific by “healthy” (such as, my kidneys are working well) or “immune” (such as, I have antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID19).
There are things you can do to keep your immune system in tip-top shape. These are generally the same things that maintain health in all your body’s systems: a well-balanced diet rich in plants and fiber; frequent vigorous exercise; plenty of sleep; low stress. A person who is avoiding vaccination would be wise to do these things so that their immune system is as ready as possible to fight off any infection.
But these actions are no substitute for vaccination. General immune health is like weight lifting for a football player: it enables your body to do the job, but is no substitute for training in the actual skills of the game. A vaccine trains your healthy immune system in a specific skill: fighting off a particular virus. If your immune system is compromised, vaccines don’t work as well, just as a weak athlete won’t play the game well even with lots of practice.
So why can’t you skip the vaccine and let your healthy immune system do its job?
Well, you can, of course, and it usually works. But you’re taking a risk. Without advance vaccination, your immune system has to learn how to fight coronavirus while the virus is multiplying in your body. This takes time and may mean you get sick before your immune system can clear things up.