A professor at the University of California, Irvine has filed a lawsuit against the system's Board of Regents and its president, Michael V. Drake, seeking an injunction to block the vaccine mandate and allow him to return to work without getting the COVID vaccine, because he had "natural immunity" from a previous infection of the disease.
Aaron Kheriaty is a doctor and professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the California university, and serves as the director of UCI's Medical Ethics Program. He is also a member of the UC Office of the President Critical Care Bioethics Working Group.
"I feel like I'm being treated unequally," Kheriaty lamented, as reported by Fox News. "If my immunity is as good, indeed, very likely better, than that conferred by the vaccine, there doesn't seem to be any rational basis for discriminating against my form of immunity and requiring me to get a different form of immunity."
The California professor said he contracted COVID back in July 2020. When school leaders began establishing vaccine mandates, he raised his concerns, but was met "mostly with radio silence" on issues he wanted to talk about. He added that ""Efforts to elicit conversation, discussion, debate on the issue have fallen flat in my experience," causing him to take legal action especially after hearing concerns from other faculty at the school.
He argued, "It became clear to me that if I, as a medical ethicist, didn't stand up and try to represent those voices, then those folks would be steamrolled by these policies."
In a legal brief presented by Kheriaty and several other faculty members, the group presented research that showed how those who previously contracted COVID may experience worse side effects than those who have not gotten infected with the disease. The faculty members argued, "It violates medical ethics to expose someone to this risk when they have robust, durable immunity that actually neutralizes SARS-CoV-2 upon exposure."
Kheriaty expressed his pleasure in being "overwhelmed with very encouraging correspondence" from those at the University of California who also gained natural immunity from a previous COVID infection and felt that they did not need to get the vaccine.
The California professor shared that he also received messages from faculty and staff who "believe the UC's coercive mandate is unethical and dangerous" and have supported his legal fight with the university.
The study population analyzed data from three groups, all aged 16 and above, who were categorized into those who had got the COVID shot at least six months prior to the study, those who got infected with COVID at least six months prior to the study, and those who had gotten infected with COVID and received one dose of the Pfizer vaccine at least seven days before the study.
The analysis showed that those who never contracted COVID and received a vaccine in January or February 2021 were up to 13 times more likely to get infected with COVID than those who already had a previous infection and recovered.
The report said that the findings "appear to indicate increased protection from natural immunity over vaccine-conferred immunity," probably due to a greater immune response to the SARS-CoV-2 proteins versus the immune activation sparked by the COVID vaccine.
In conclusion, researchers said that "natural immunity provides longer-lasting and stronger protection against infection, symptomatic disease, and hospitalization due to the Delta variant," compared to those who got the COVID vaccine.