The risks of soldiers, sailors, and airmen contracting SARS-CoV-2 affect the readiness of military organizations. The condition of an individual’s immune status determines susceptibility to infection and is dependent on one’s pre-existing medical condition, the implementation of beneficial prophylactic treatments, and whether protection is conferred by natural immunity or vaccination. Commanders who assess and address the problem in a rational fashion will ensure the best possible health outcome for those under their command.
The age of those serving in the military places them in a low risk category for severe morbidity and death due to Covid. Without accounting for health risk factors, those 18-29 represent 0.56% of all U.S. Covid deaths to date, while those 18-49, a cohort that represents most active duty personnel, account for 6.3% of the total. In this healthy patient population, the goal to achieve broad, long lasting immunity against SARS-CoV-2 can be better achieved by naturally acquired immunity as opposed to relying on vaccines that require multiple boosters and do not confer sterilizing immunity.
Natural immunity is the gold standard of immunology. Exposure and subsequent recovery from a pathogen provides immunity due to antibodies and memory B and T cells. This protection is often life long and complete, since one’s immune system develops antibodies against multiple antigens on the infectious organism. Traditional vaccines using live attenuated or killed inocula also afford this level of protection. However, mRNA vaccines designed to induce antibodies against a single, highly mutating antigen require frequent booster shots, allow for breakthrough infections, and the ability to infect others.
To date there are over 100 high quality studies that demonstrate the superiority or equality of natural immunity compared to vaccine induced immunity. Natural immunity critics point out that long lasting immunity has not been proven, however, this is a disingenuous argument, since persistent immunity has been shown as long as the observations have been conducted. Patients who recovered in 2003 from SARS-CoV-1, a close relative of SARS-CoV-2, remain immune eighteen years later. An article from Nature concluded that those with even mild symptoms due to SARS-CoV-2 will produce antibodies for a lifetime.
The CDC traditionally recognized that patients who have contracted certain diseases do not require vaccination for those diseases. Examples include mumps, measles, rubella, and chickenpox-diseases where there is no benefit to vaccination after illness. Studies published by the Cleveland Clinic and from Israel describe extremely low reinfection rates in patients who acquired and recovered from SARS-CoV-2.
Pfizer reports that its mRNA vaccine induces antibody titers that wane rapidly after administration, thus requiring multiple boosters. Furthermore, vaccinated patients obtain high viral loads and are as infectious as non vaccinated patients. Fully vaccinated countries have the highest incidence of new Covid cases. While protective against hospitalization and death, mRNA vaccines cause side effects, which experts contend are under-reported in the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). The link between vaccine induced myocarditis and young males is widely established. Those recovered from naturally acquired disease are more apt to experience side effects if vaccinated.
Black and Hispanic vaccination rates lag behind Whites, yet these minorities die from Covid at numbers out of proportion to their respective vaccination rates. With the high numbers of minorities serving in the armed forces, commanders must be aware of the best medical options to insure their health and ability to fulfill the mission. Blacks and Hispanics frequently have low serum vitamin D3 levels due to inadequate dietary supplementation or sun generated synthesis. Studies indicate that those who suffer severe symptoms or death from Covid often presented with low levels of serum vitamin D3.
Routine supplementation with vitamin D3 prior to contracting Covid has a beneficial effect, particularly in patients at high risk.
Natural induced immunity to SARS-CoV-2 offers a military advantage. Under these circumstances the Department of Defense has at its disposal a fighting force at low risk for reinfection, protected against the severe effects of new variants, and not in need of endless booster shots. Requiring vaccinations that are potentially harmful and provide little medical benefit, adversely affects reenlistment rates
and degrades morale. Exempting Congress, their staff, and judicial branch of government from mandatory vaccination reeks of hypocrisy, and this double standard is palpable among those who serve.
All members of the armed services should receive antibody testing, and if positive, automatically exempted from Covid vaccination. Those who test negative and do not have medical risk factors should be placed on prophylactic vitamin D3 and a strict weight control regimen, then given the option to receive a Covid vaccination. The argument that those in the armed forces must be vaccinated to protect others is debunked in a recent Lancet study which noted, “fully vaccinated individuals with breakthrough infections have peak viral load similar to unvaccinated cases and can efficiently transmit infection in household settings, including to fully vaccinated contacts.”
There are a number of other widely discussed prophylactic and therapeutic options available, which are inexpensive, protective, and of low risk to patients. Commanders must insist that these alternatives be thoroughly explored, studied, and implemented if proven effective. The welfare of the country depends on those serving in the armed forces, and their treatment must be based on non- political, scientifically based policies.