The risks to soldiers, sailors, and airmen of 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 rationally address the problem 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 representing 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 instead of relying on vaccines that require multiple boosters and do not confer sterilizing protection.
Natural immunity is the gold standard of immunology. Exposure and subsequent recovery from a pathogen provide immunity due to antibodies and memory B and T cells. This protection is often lifelong and complete since one's immune system develops antibodies against multiple antigens on the infectious organism. Traditional vaccines using live attenuated or killed inoculums 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 admits 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, yet the CDC cannot demonstrate one case when a patient with natural immunity becomes reinfected with SARS-CoV-2 and transmits it to another person. Fully vaccinated countries have the highest incidence of new Covid cases. While protective against hospitalization and death, adverse reactions to mRNA vaccines exceed 850,000, including over 18,000 deaths, as reported in a recent summary of the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). The link between vaccine induced myocarditis and young males is widely established, prompting Germany and France to suspend all Moderna vaccinations for those under age 30. 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 ensure 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. The argument that vaccinating low-risk groups is necessary 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."
All members of the armed services should receive SARS-CoV-2 antibody testing, and if positive, be automatically exempted from Covid vaccination. Those who test negative and do not have medical risk factors should be placed on prophylactic vitamin D3 and encouraged to maintain an ideal body weight. 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 health care must be based on non-political, scientifically based policies.