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What is the difference between natural immunity and a COVID-19 vaccine?

Companies with less than 100 employees have the legal flexibility of vaccine requirements that...
Companies with less than 100 employees have the legal flexibility of vaccine requirements that larger businesses don’t have, due to the federal mandate.(WBAY Staff)
Published: Oct. 8, 2021 at 5:31 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - An escalating debate has taken shape between employees and employers about requiring the COVID-19 vaccine, even if someone has already had a case of the coronavirus.

Some argue that “natural immunity” after the body fights off infection is sufficient to not need or want the vaccine.

“Employers by in large, they can do whatever they want to do if you have employees who are ‘at will,’” president of Herrling Clark Law Firm, Robert Loomis, said. “That means you can not do the bad things like discriminate based upon all the factors: age, sex, national origin, creed, religion that type of thing. You can’t discriminate, but you can set policies in your firm as you want to protect your employees.”

Companies with fewer than 100 employees have the legal flexibility of vaccine requirements that larger businesses don’t have due to the federal mandate. The lawful distinction can be more challenging, though, according to attorneys, when it comes to a worker claiming they have natural immunity and don’t need the vaccine.

“The person making the claim has the burden of proving these things,” Nicole Marklein, an attorney and partner at Cross Jenks Mercer and Maffei, emphasized. “First, they would have to demonstrate that they are similar situated. In the case of someone that is asserting natural immunity, they would have the burden of demonstrating that their immunity is the same as someone who is vaccinated.”

State Rep. Cody Horlacher, a Republican out of Mukwonago, sent out a news release on October 4 about a bill he is circulating to protect natural immunity in Wisconsin. His statement said in part, “With the increase in employer-mandated vaccinations we need to protect natural immunity as an answer to vaccine and testing requirements.” This bill would ask for proof of a positive COVID-19 test or proof of antibodies for COVID-19 in order to comply with an employer required COVID-19 vaccine or testing.

“Neither of those tests actually characterize whether someone is truly protected,” associate professor of population health sciences at UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health Ajay Sethi, highlighted. “They’re just evidence that someone has had an infection in the past. Antibody tests that are available right now do not tell you whether or not you have protection moving forward.”

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