By Guy Page
About 30 Vermonters who contracted symptomatic Covid-19 symptoms have recovered and then suffered a second bout of symptomatic Covid-19, Health Commissioner Mark Levine said Tuesday.
To date, the total number of confirmed and probable cases of Covid-19 is 37,775. Using Levine’s figure of 30, less than 1 in 1,000 Vermonters with at least natural immunity have suffered symptomatic reinfection. By contrast, vaccine immunity has shown a higher rate of infection. To date there have been 134 hospitalizations and 59 deaths among the 4,881 cases of vaccine breakthrough since Jan. 1, 2021.
A 0.0008 natural immunity current Vermont reinfection rate cannot be positively claimed because it is not known how many of the 30 re-infected, naturally-immune Vermonters also may have been vaccinated.
The question of likelihood of reinfection has become important as people who have already had Covid-19 argue their naturally-acquired immunity should exempt them from mandatory vaccination. The CDC claims that among Covid survivors, the unvaccinated are more than twice as likely to contract Covid again, based on a Kentucky study. Natural immunity supporters say it is sufficient and point to the vaccine’s adverse effects, as noted in the VAERS data.
At Tuesday’s press conference, Vermont Daily Chronicle asked Health Commissioner Mark Levine about Vermont’s experience with Covid-19 re-infection.
Vermont Daily Chronicle: How many instances have there been of a Vermonter having full-blown highly symptomatic Covid, recovering, and then at a later date redeveloping full-blown highly symptomatic Covid?
Dr. Mark Levine: What you’re referring to is called reinfection — someone who at one point in time has an infection, well over three months go by, and suddenly they present with a similar infection.
So let me tell you about the challenges of measuring it. First because the way you accurately measure it is to know the genetic sequence of the original virus, and then the genetic sequence of what came next – to see if it’s the same virus or if it’s a different genetic sequencing. We only have that data for the most recent part of the pandemic, because states haven’t been doing whole genome sequencing for more than several months, like since the summer time.
So I don’t have the precise number today. But the last time we reported on this number and looked at it, it was under 30. So under 30 cases, and I think we’re talking now 35,000 cases of Covid over time. So, very small number.
So, it is known that it can happen, this phenomenon of reinfection. But again, at least during the current pandemic, it doesn’t appear to be that common an event.
Chronicle: Just to clarify, are we talking about people who were really sick — I mean not just “tested positive” but didn’t have symptoms, therefore maybe bringing into doubt the testing, but people who were really sick both times?
Levine: I don’t think I’d have to qualify it with the word really sick, I would just say symptomatic because I don’t have a handle on every case. But the reason they got tested most likely was because they had symptoms on both occasions, but hard to tell you they were really sick.
Guy Page is publisher of the Vermont Daily Chronicle. Reprinted with permission.