What Are the Benefits of Natural Immunity?

In the pre-vaccine era, we had outbreaks of polio, and other, now vaccine-preventable diseases.
What are the benefits of getting polio?

Is natural immunity – the kind of immunity you get from actually getting a disease – better than immunity from a vaccine?

All things being equal, sure.

Unfortunately, all things aren’t equal when it comes to the question of natural immunity vs ‘artificial’ or vaccine induced immunity.

Vaccines are safe and have few serious side effects, while vaccine-preventable diseases can be life-threatening and can leave survivors with serious disabilities.

What Are the Benefits of Natural Immunity?

There are benefits of natural immunity.

If you get a disease, like measles or rubella, you typically have life-long immunity and won’t get it again.

That immunity comes at a price though.

In addition to being sick for a few days or weeks with the symptoms of the disease, many vaccine-preventable diseases can have serious complications. Most are life-threatening.

“…the high price of natural immunity, that is, occasionally severe and fatal disease, is a risk not worth taking.”

Paul Offit, MD

So instead of just getting a vaccine, you have to earn your natural immunity by surviving the disease and hoping that you don’t have any of these serious complications:

  • chicken pox can be associated with meningitis, encephalitis, secondary pneumonia, skin infections, and sometimes death, and folks who have had chicken pox are thought to be at higher risk for shingles than those who have had a chicken pox vaccine
  • diphtheria can cause myocarditis, neuritis, and diaphragmatic paralysis, and death in 5 to 20 percent of people
  • about 50 percent of children (and 90 percent of infants) with hepatitis B develop chronic hepatitis B infections and can later develop scarring of the liver (cirrhosis), liver failure, and liver cancer
  • Hib can cause hearing impairment, neurologic sequelae, and death in 2 to 5 percent of cases
  • measles can cause pneumonia, seizures, and encephalitis, and death in about 1 in 1000 cases and Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis (SSPE) is a fatal, late complication of natural measles infections and which might occur in as many as 1:1700 people who have had measles.
  • mumps can cause orchitis (testicular inflammation), oophoritis (ovarian inflammation), pancreatitis, meningitis, encephalitis, deafness, and sometimes death
  • pertussis can cause pneumonia, seizures, and encephalopathy, and death in 0.2 percent of cases.
  • polio can cause meningitis, flaccid paralysis, and death in 2 to 5 percent of children and 25 to 40 percent survivors are at risk for Post-Polio Syndrome, with new symptoms of pain, fatigue, and weakness developing later
  • rotavirus can cause severe diarrhea and dehydration and used to cause 20 to 60 deaths a year.
  • rubella can cause arthritis, thrombocytopenic purpura, and encephalitis, but the bigger concern is pregnant women who get rubella, which can lead to spontaneous abortions, neonatal deaths, and congenital rubella syndrome.
  • tetanus can cause generalized muscle spasms and death in 11 percent of cases. Neonatal tetanus is also a concern.

That’s why for most of us, there is no question.

Our kids are fully vaccinated and we are very glad that they have artificial immunity against measles, Hib, pneumococcal disease, and hepatitis B, etc.

Myths About Natural Immunity

And people shouldn’t get confused about “natural” immunity.

It doesn’t mean that you just wake up and have immunity against a disease one day naturally. Again, you have to earn that immunity, by getting sick with the disease and hoping you don’t have any complications, some of which can be life-threatening. That’s why it is silly to think about checking titers if you haven’t been vaccinated or had a disease already, even though some anti-vaccine people propose doing that.

Even the idea that getting an infection provides life-long immunity isn’t always true. It certainly isn’t for some diseases, like pertussis or tetanus.

And getting one type of an infection doesn’t always mean that you will be protected against others. There are three serotypes of polio, for example, and immunity is serotype-specific. You would have to get all three serotypes of polio to equal the protection of the polio vaccine!

Other myths about natural immunity you may hear include that it is good to have childhood diseases, like measles or diphtheria.

That is of course ridiculous.

“Vaccination has greatly reduced the burden of infectious diseases. Only clean water, also considered to be a basic human right, performs better. Paradoxically, a vociferous antivaccine lobby thrives today in spite of the undeniable success of vaccination programmes against formerly fearsome diseases that are now rare in developed countries.”

Andre et al on Vaccination greatly reduces disease, disability, death and inequity worldwide

In fact, we now know that people who survive a measles infection can have some immunosuppression for up to two to three years! This measles-induced immune damage puts them at risk of dying from other diseases and helps explain why kids who are vaccinated against measles are also less likely to die from other childhood infections.

That’s not a benefit that you can get without a vaccine. And since the risks from vaccines are so small, there is no benefit of seeking natural immunity over getting vaccinated.

What to Know About the Benefits of Natural Immunity

The benefit of natural immunity, developing life-long immunity, comes at such a high price that it is not worth skipping or delaying your child’s vaccines to get it.

More on the Benefits of Natural Immunity

13 thoughts on “What Are the Benefits of Natural Immunity?

  1. The anti vaccine lobby equates “natural” with “good”, blissfully unaware of how deadly many “natural” products are, and the list includes – Posionous / Toxic “Natural” Foods, Venomous “Natural” Creatures, Poisonous “Natural” Plants, Terrestrial “Naturally” Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM), Cosmogenic NORM, and virtually every element on the periodic table when consumed in elemental form.

    A few hundred examples :

    Posionous / Toxic “Natural” Foods : Sucrose, dextrins – Disaccharide intolerance, Broadbean – glucose-P-dehydrogenase causes favism, Galactose and lactose (dairy products) – Galactosemia, Wheat, barley, gluten containing foods – Gluten intolerance, Dietary nitrogen (primarily meat) – Ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency, Phenylalanine in foods – Phenylketonuria (PKU disease), Wheat, barley and rye – Refractory sprue, Fish – Trimethylaminuria, Very long chain fatty acids – Very Long chain Acyl CoA dehydrogenase deficiency (LCAD), Caffeine, theophylline, grapefruit juice (naringen and furanocourmarins bergmottin and dihydroxybergamotin), grape juice, cruciferous vegetables, apiaceous vegetables, cooked meat – Clozapine, fluvoxamine, imipramine, Watercress and possibly other isothiocyanate-containing cruciferous vegetables; polyunsaturated fatty acids (corn oil, menhaden oil) – Ethanol, halothane, enflurane, Grapefruit, orange juice, red wine, possibly other polyphenol-containing substances, St. Johns wort, garlic – Ketoconazole, cyclosporine, erythromycin, protease inhibitors, HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, watercress, broccoli -Acetaminophen, oxazepam, morphine, ibuprofen, Vegetables, fruit juice, St. Johns wort – Digoxin, cyclosporine, parvastatin, hypericin, hyperforin, Selenium – Diarrhea, fatigue, a garlic-like odor of the breath and bodily secretions, irritability, peripheral neuropathy, and skin lesions, Methyl mercury – exposure may cause neurological paresthesias, ataxia, dysarthria, hearing defects and death., Thujone, a monoterpene ketone, is the primary constituent of essential oils derived from a variety of plants, including sage (Salvia officinalis), clary (Salvia sclarea), tansy (Tanacetum vulgare), wormwood (Artemisia spp. and white cedar – central nervous system effects characterized by tonic-clonic or solely clonic convulsions, Prussic acid (also known as hydrocyanic acid, hydrogen cyanide, or cyanide) is formed when cyanogenic glycosides found in leaves, cherry, apple and peach pits, oak moss and other plant tissues are damaged and come into contact with beta-glycosidase or emulsion enzymes – Cyanide., Spinach, cassava, peanuts, soybeans, strawberries, sweet potatoes, peaches, pears, and vegetables in the Brassica genus, which include broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, canola, cauliflower, mustard greens, radishes, and rapeseed – Cretinism., Cassava (Manihot esculenta) – high levels of linamarin., Rape (Brassica napus L. or Brassica campestris L.) – Erucic acid, Citrus fruits) and Umbelliferae (e.g., parsnip, parsley, celery, carrots) – Furocoumarins

    Venomous “Natural” Creatures : Scorpion – contains neurotoxins such as Chlorotoxin, Charybdotoxin, Scyllatoxin, and Agitoxins, Puffer Fish – Contains potent tetrodotoxin neuropoison causing paralysis and death within minutes., Blue Ringed Octopus – Contains same neurotoxin as puffer fish., Snakes – Contain hemotoxic venom, presynaptic neurotoxins,, Box Jellyfish – Venom containing “porin” causing potassium rapid loss leading to cardiac failure., Fire Ants – Formic acid, and toxic aliphatic alkaloids., Bees, Wasps – Phospholipase A2, mellitin, antigen 5, hyaluronidases : anaphylaxis

    Poisonous “Natural” Plants : Abrus precatorius (known commonly as jequirity, crab’s eye, rosary pea, ‘John Crow’ bead, precatory bean, Indian licorice, akar saga, giddee giddee, jumbie bead, ruti, and weather plant)., Aconitum genus (several species, commonly called aconite, wolfsbane and monkshood)., Actaea pachypoda (also known as doll’s eyes or white baneberry)., Adenium obesum (also known as sabi star, kudu or desert-rose)., Aesculus hippocastanum (commonly known as horse-chestnut)., Agave genus. The juice of a number of species causes acute contact dermatitis., Ageratina altissima (commonly known as white snakeroot)., Agrostemma githago (commonly known as corn cockle)., Aquilegia genus (several species commonly known as columbine)., Areca catechu (commonly known as betel nut palm and pinyang)., Arum maculatum (commonly known as cuckoo-pint, lords and ladies, jack-in-the-pulpit, wake robin, wild arum, devils and angels, cows and bulls, Adam and Eve, bobbins and starch-root)., Asparagus genus (several species including Asparagus officinalis and Asparagus densiflorus)., Atropa belladonna (commonly known as deadly nightshade, belladonna, devil’s cherry and dwale, an Anglo-Saxon term meaning “stupifying drink”)., Brugmansia genus (commonly known as angel’s trumpet)., Caladium genus (commonly known as angel wings, elephant ear and heart of Jesus)., Cerbera odollam (commonly known as the suicide tree)., Chelidonium majus (also known as greater celandine)., Cicuta genus (commonly known as water hemlock, cowbane, wild carrot, snakeweed, poison parsnip, false parsley, children’s bane and death-of-man)., Cleistanthus collinus., Colchicum autumnale (commonly known as autumn crocus and meadow saffron)., Conium maculatum (commonly known as hemlock, poison hemlock, spotted parsley, spotted cowbane, bad-man’s oatmeal, poison snakeweed and beaver poison)., Consolida subgenus (commonly known as larkspur)., Convallaria majalis (commonly known as lily of the valley)., Coriaria myrtifolia (commonly known as redoul)., Cytisus scoparius (commonly known as broom or common broom)., Daphne genus. The berries (either red or yellow), Datura genus (several species commonly known as jimson weed, thorn apple, stinkweed, Jamestown weed, angel’s trumpets, moonflower, and sacred datura)., Deathcamas. Various genera in the Melanthieae family have species whose common names include “deathcamas”, including Amianthium, Anticlea, Stenanthium, Toxicoscordion and Zigadenus (All parts of these plants are toxic), Delphinium genus (also known as larkspur)., Dendrocnide moroides (also known as stinging tree and gympie gympie)., Dicentra cucullaria (also known as bleeding heart and Dutchman’s breeches)., Dichapetalum cymosum (also known as gifblaar)., Dieffenbachia genus (commonly known as dumbcane)., Digitalis purpurea (commonly known as foxglove)., Euonymus europaeus (commonly known as spindle, European spindle or spindle tree)., Excoecaria agallocha (commonly known as milky mangrove, blind-your-eye mangrove and river poison tree)., Gelsemium sempervirens (commonly known as yellow jessamine)., Grevillea sp. (commonly known as silky oak and spiderflower)., Hedera helix (also known as common ivy)., Helleborus niger (also known as Christmas rose)., Heracleum mantegazzianum (also known as giant hogweed)., Heracleum sosnowskyi (commonly known as Sosnowsky’s Hogweed)., Hippomane mancinella (commonly known as manchineel)., Hyacinthus orientalis (commonly known as hyacinth)., Hyoscyamus niger (commonly known as henbane)., Ilex aquifolium (commonly known as European holly)., Jacobaea vulgaris (commonly known as ragwort)., Kalanchoe delagoensis (commonly known as mother of millions)., Kalmia latifolia (commonly known as mountain laurel)., Laburnum genus. (All parts of the plant and especially the seeds are poisonous), Ligustrum genus (several species, commonly known as privet)., Lilium genus (commonly known as lily)., Lolium temulentum (commonly called darnel or poison ryegrass)., Mandragora officinarum (commonly called mandrake)., Melianthus major (also called honeybush)., Menispermum genus (commonly known as moonseed)., Narcissus genus (various species and garden cultivars commonly known as daffodil)., Nerium oleander (commonly known as oleander)., Oenanthe crocata (commonly known as hemlock water dropwort)., Passiflora caerulea (also known as the blue passion flower or the common passion flower)., Peucedanum galbanum (commonly known as blister bush)., Phoradendron genus (commonly known as American mistletoe; see also the related Viscum genus)., Physostigma venenosum (commonly known as calabar bean and also as ordeal beans due to their former use in trials by ordeal)., Phytolacca genus (commonly known as pokeweed)., Plumeria genus (commonly known as frangipani)., Podophyllum peltatum (commonly known as mayapple)., Pteridium aquilinum (commonly known as bracken)., Quercus genus (several species, commonly known as oak)., Rhododendron genus (several species including those known as azalea)., Rhus genus (certain species commonly known as African sumac)., Ricinus communis (commonly known as castor oil plant, castor bean and Palma Christi)., Robinia genus (also known as black locust and false acacia)., Sambucus genus (commonly known as elder or elderberry)., Sanguinaria canadensis (commonly known as bloodroot)., Solanum dulcamara (commonly known as bittersweet nightshade)., Solanum nigrum (commonly known as black nightshade)., Solanum pseudocapsicum (commonly known as Jerusalem cherry, Madeira winter cherry and winter cherry)., Sophora secundiflora (commonly known as mescal bean and Texas mountain laurel)., Strophanthus gratus. The ripe seeds of this African plant contain ouabain (a potent cardiac glycoside that, when sufficiently concentrated, can induce cardiac arrest), Strychnos nux-vomica (commonly known as the strychnine tree)., Taxus baccata (commonly known as English yew, common yew and graveyard tree)., Toxicodendron genus: several species, including Toxicodendron radicans (commonly known as poison ivy),, Urtica ferox (commonly known as ongaonga)., Veratrum genus (commonly known as false hellebore and corn lily)., Viscum genus (commonly known as European mistletoe; see also the related Phoradendron genus)., Voacanga africana. The bark and seeds of this tropical tree contain a complex mixture of iboga alkaloids, including voacangine and voacamine (These compounds have been variously used as stimulants, psychedelic drugs, and poisons)., Xanthium genus (several species commonly known as cocklebur)., Zantedeschia genus (several species, also known as Lily of the Nile and Calla lily).

    Terrestrial – “Naturally” Occurring Radioactive Material – NORM : Uranium 238, Thorium 234, Palladium 234, Uranium 234, Thorium 232, Thorium 230, Radon 228, Radon 226, Radon 222, Actinium 228, Radium 224, Radon 220, Polonium 218, Polonium 216, Lead 214, Lead 212, Bismuth 214, Polonium 214, Bismuth 212, Polonium 212, Lead 210, Bismuth 210, Polonium 210, Thalium 208

    Cosmogenic NORM : C-14 , H-3 (tritium) , Na-22 , Be-7, Sunlight – Ultraviolet Light (skin cancer)

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