The two main Lehigh Valley health networks have COVID-19 vaccination mandates in place for employees, but if an employee has contracted COVID-19 on their own, they are allowed to defer obtaining the COVID-19. vaccine for up to 12 months. Of course, they can also receive the vaccine as soon as possible.
The decision to allow the deferral was first made by the St. Luke’s University Health Network. Dr. Jeffery Jahre, chief infectious disease chief emeritus at St. Luke’s, told lehighvalleylive.com that a lot of research and evidence led to the decision.
“The natural immunity after a COVID infection is actually more robust than the immunity you achieve after two injections of an mRNA vaccine,” Dr Jahre said, adding that the research came mainly from Israel as well as from the United Kingdom. “In some cases it can be 25 times more (robust).” He noted that the durability appears to last around a year.
While this is a promising statistic, it is only the case for those who have overcome a COVID-19 infection. Dr Jahre still encourages people who have not received the vaccine to receive it and not to try to get COVID just for immunity after recovering from it. “You don’t want to get the natural infection,” he said. “You could die for it or become crippled by it.”
The Morning Call initially reported last week that Lehigh Valley Health Network was also considering adopting the policy, but a spokesperson for the health network has since confirmed in a statement that LVHN has officially added the deferral option to its tenure. vaccination for employees.
Once the 12 months have elapsed, employees will need to be vaccinated. According to the LVHN statement, those who do not receive the vaccine after their recovery are 2.3 times more likely to be re-infected than those who receive the vaccine after their recovery.
Allowing employees to defer the vaccine opens up more doses of vaccine to the public than might otherwise have been available, although availability is not as an issue now as it is in late winter and in the summer. early spring.
The combination of natural immunity with the vaccine is even more protective, Jahre said.
“If you have natural immunity, there have been more recent studies that show that even a single dose would give you increased immunity,” he said. “You will benefit from at least one dose. There is at least one potential improvement. Whether or not you need this boost remains to be seen, but we know that one dose will likely give you longer durability.
The 12-month clock begins when an employee recovers from a natural COVID infection. Jahre said the health network experts who made the decision are ready to change the policy if new information comes to light.
“We always say, ‘we assess the data and we make a decision based on how the evidence appears today,” “Jahre said. “It’s a rapidly changing situation. So if the data changes tomorrow, we have to change. We will change.
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Connor Lagore can be reached at [email protected].