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‘Comprehensive immunity’ gained from infection and vaccination is best immunity: Epidemiologist

Epidemiologist predicts outbreak will peak in Taiwan around July, and people should be able to live normally from then

Ho Mei-shang (front)

Ho Mei-shang (front) (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The best immunity against COVID-19 is “comprehensive immunity,” which is gained through infection following vaccination against the disease, Ho Mei-shang (何美鄉), an epidemiologist at Academia Sinica, said on Wednesday (May 18).

Ho mentioned “comprehensive immunity” while speaking about lessons learned from COVID-19 prevention strategies in other countries during a meeting of Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) Central Standing Committee meeting, CNA reported.

She said “comprehensive immunity” refers to the highly effective and long-lasting immunity created in an individual's body after having been vaccinated following an infection. Even if the process is reversed, with the vaccination preceding the infection, the same effect still exists, she added.

She said she does not encourage the public to get infected with COVID-19 on purpose, however, but to instead get fully vaccinated and make themselves more healthy, so they do not have to be afraid of the virus.

She said she believes the pandemic will peak in Taiwan around July, and people should be able to live a normal life if the infection numbers continue to decrease by then.

Right after getting the second and third doses, COVID vaccines' efficacy is about 70% at most, and that efficacy will gradually decline each month. By the time people in Taiwan finish up the country's more than 10 million booster doses that are left, the average protection provided by the vaccines is estimated to drop to between 30-40%, which means 60-70% of people will still get infected, she said.

The good thing about Omicron is that the variant tends to be less virulent, causing mostly mild or no symptoms in infected cases, she said. COVID-19 might resurge in winter as the virus evolves into new variants. The comprehensive immunity gained from the vaccinations of a large majority of the population and asymptomatic infections among a great mass of people is the best immunity against the disease, she went on to say.

She encouraged people who smoke to quickly quit, people who are overweight to begin exercising, and people who eat unhealthy, high-sugar and high-calorie foods to change to a whole food diet. Only those who live a healthy lifestyle can fend off various diseases and keep at it for a long time, she added.

When asked whether a second booster shot is necessary for ordinary people, Ho said fourth shots should be put on hold to observe what variants will come along in the winter before giving them the go-ahead. If the country is doing well in terms of comprehensive immunity, the fourth shots might be unnecessary, and more research should be done on them, she said.