Posted BY: Brian C. Joondeph, M.D.
Natural immunity to disease is, or at least was, a well-known concept in medicine.
By disease, I mean viral infections. One can’t develop natural immunity to diseases like diabetes or heart failure. Many of us remember “chicken pox parties” where when one kid was infectious, he or she was invited over to play with your kids, so they all got infected and then they did not have to worry about getting chicken pox again, due to natural immunity.
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The CDC defines it as follows: “Natural immunity is acquired from exposure to the disease organism through infection with the actual disease.” Contrast this to: “Vaccine-induced immunity is acquired through the introduction of a killed or weakened form of the disease organism through vaccination.”
Both can be effective depending on the virus, assuming exposure doesn’t kill you, and the type of vaccine, assuming one exists for that virus. As the CDC describes, “If an immune person comes into contact with that disease in the future, their immune system will recognize it and immediately produce the antibodies needed to fight it. Active immunity is long-lasting, and sometimes life-long.”
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