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- Public health authorities have encouraged people who have had Covid-19 to be vaccinated, because the vaccine provides a more robust immunity than antibodies from the infection.
- There is no evidence that people who have Covid-19 antibodies cannot transmit the virus to others.
- People who have had the virus can get the virus again.
Andrew Giuliani, a former Trump White House aide, said on the day he announced that he is running for governor in New York that he hasn’t been vaccinated for COVID-19.
Giuliani said he contracted the virus last year, and added he still gets tested for Covid-19 antibodies, which offer some protection from becoming reinfected.
"The one good thing about the antibodies if you’ve had it, is it actually is even better than the vaccine, and here’s why. With the vaccine you can still transmit, with the antibodies you can’t transmit," Giuliani said at a news conference. "So I can’t receive, and I can’t transmit. Obviously as that goes along, that reduction comes up, so there’s a certain amount of antibodies. I continue to get monitored every month on that."
The views of the 35-year-old son of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani figure to become more widespread as he campaigns for New York State government’s most powerful job. So are his remarks about Covid-19 antibodies and the vaccine correct?
A spokesperson for the Giuliani campaign, Heather McBride, referred us to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for data regarding the effectiveness of post-Covid-19 antibodies.
The CDC did not respond to our messages, but the agency published a brief on April 2, in which it said that fully vaccinated people are less likely to have asymptomatic infection and less likely to spread the coronavirus to others, though investigation into this is ongoing.
In Israel, preliminary data suggests that people who received the Pfizer vaccine and then were infected with the virus have a four-fold lower viral load that people who hadn’t been vaccinated. According to the CDC, this could mean reduced transmission, "as viral load has been identified as a key driver of transmission."
A Covid-19 infection provides 83% protection against re-infection for at least five months, but it may not stop transmission, according to a study in England of thousands of health care workers who had been infected.
"The research team warned, however, that early evidence from the next stage of the study suggested that some people who are themselves protected by antibodies still carry high levels of virus and could continue to infect others," according to a description of the study in BMJ, which publishes medical journals.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, said in a White House briefing in early May that the vaccine can protect people against the virus better than natural antibodies.
"Vaccines are highly efficacious," Fauci said. "They are better than the traditional response you get from natural infection."
Dr. George Rutherford, a professor of epidemiology at University of California, San Francisco, said that immunity from the vaccine is much more robust, and it has more neutralizing antibodies than those found in people who have had the infection.
People can also get infected with the virus that causes Covid-19 a second time, he said.
People who have Covid-19 can transmit the virus. But there is no "shedding" of the virus from the vaccine, because there’s no live virus in the vaccine, he said. In rare instances of "vaccine failure," where people who are fully vaccinated get the virus, the virus can be transmitted.
"It’s completely wrong on every level," Rutherford said of Giuliani’s claim.
PolitiFact looked at what people who have been infected with the virus should do to protect themselves and others and found that cases of reinfection are rare. While those infected can continue shedding the virus for months after they recover, the CDC said, the amount is low enough that it is unlikely to infect others. But experts said that it’s unknown how long immunity lasts.
USA Today fact-checked a claim that people who have been vaccinated can shed virus particles from the vaccine on to others, and found that it was false. The three vaccines authorized for emergency use do not contain live virus. In the rare instances where vaccinated people are infected with the virus, they can transmit the virus, according to the CDC.
Giuliani claimed that having antibodies from Covid-19 infection is better than the vaccine because people with antibodies cannot transmit the virus, but people who are vaccinated can.
Scientists say more study of the virus and the vaccines is necessary, but nothing in the research supports Guiliani’s claim.
The CDC warns that people who have had the virus and people who have been vaccinated can still get Covid-19, and both can transmit the virus. For people who have already had the virus, the level of transmission is unknown. For people who are vaccinated, research shows their viral load is lower, reducing transmission.
Based on the data available at the time he made his statement, we rate his claim False.
YouTube, Andrew Giuliani news conference, May 18, 2021. Accessed May 19, 2021.
Phone interview, George Rutherford, III, M.D., professor of epidemiology and biostatistics, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, May 21, 2021.
Phone interview, A. Oveta Fuller, PhD., associate professor, Dept. of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Michigan Medical School, May 22, 2021.
Email interview, Monica Gandhi, M.D., M.P.H., professor of medicine and associate chief, Division of HIV, Infectious Diseases, and Global Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, May 23, 2021.
Emailed statement, Heather McBride, spokesperson, Andrew Giuliani 2022 campaign, May 22, 2021.
BMJ, "Covid-19: Past infection provides 83% protection for five months but may not stop transmission, study finds," Elisabeth Mahase, Jan. 14, 2021. Accessed May 24, 2021.
Insider, article, "Dr. Fauci explains why COVID-19 vaccines work much better than natural immunity to protect you from the coronavirus," May 5, 2021. Accessed May 25, 2021.
C-SPAN, video and transcript, "White House COVID-19 Response Team Briefing," May 5, 2021. Accessed May 26, 2021.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Science Brief: Background Rationale and Evidence for Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People," April 2, 2021. Accessed May 26, 2021.
PolitiFact, "Ask PolitiFact and KHN: I’ve recovered from Covid-19. Why do I still have to mask up?," April 16, 2021. Accessed May 26, 2021.
USA Today, "Fact check: COVID-19 vaccinated people don’t ‘shed’ viral particles from the vaccine," May 7, 2021. Accessed May 26, 2021.
Factcheck.org, "Vaccines Benefit Those Who Have Had COVID-19, Contrary to Viral Posts," April 23, 2021. Accessed May 25, 2021.
The Conversation, "Can people vaccinated against COVID-19 still spread the coronavirus?," Sanjay Mishra, project coordinator and staff scientist, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, May 25, 2021. Accessed May 27, 2021.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, "Effectiveness of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Vaccines Against COVID-19 Among Hospitalized Adults Aged ≥65 Years — United States, January–March 2021," May 7, 2021. Accessed May 27, 2021.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Interim Guidelines for COVID-19 Antibody Testing," March 17, 2021. Accessed May 27, 2021.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "COVID-19 Vaccines Work," updated May 20, 2021. Accessed May 31, 2021.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration, "Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions," April 27, 2021. Accessed May 31, 2021.
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