The Canadian-American magazine VICE is at the center of controversy after publishing a tweet and a confusing article about “natural immunity.”
“There’s no such thing as natural immunity—and even if you’ve been lucky thus far, Delta could change that,” reads the tweet posted on September 21.
The article linked to the post, titled “‘I Haven’t Gotten COVID Yet’ Isn’t a Good Reason to Skip the Vax… But experts emphasize that if you’ve made it this far without contracting the virus, it’s because you’ve been lucky-not because you’re invincible or have natural immunity, which doesn’t exist.”
What the magazine is saying is that if you have not caught COVID-19 so far it is because of “luck” and not because you have an “innate immunity” to COVID-19. However, the journal misused the term “natural immunity” which, in fact, is when a person is infected with coronavirus and has immunity to the disease for a set period of time.
For example, a study in the scientific journal Nature, published in January of this year, suggests that natural immunity against COVID-19 can last up to more than six months.
In fact, natural immunity is so effective in some cases that there is debate over which immunity is better against the virus: vaccines or natural immunity. A BBC article entitled “Covid-19: which is the best way to boost your immunity, with natural infection or through vaccines?” reads that there are “four key areas to compare the immunity provided by a vaccine and that which develops after natural infection with the virus.”
The first is “breadth”, second “strength”, third “duration” and fourth “location: nose or arm”; from there, the BBC compares, through expert opinions, which type of immunity may be more effective in fighting the virus. Natural immunity does exist, and VICE irresponsibly used the term.
Social networks react against VICE
Thousands of users replied to the Canadian-American magazine’s tweet, most being quite critical of VICE.
“‘Natural immunity’ is too ambiguous a term,” medical journalist and science editor Liz Highleyman responded to VICE. “Some people are inherently immune to certain pathogens. Some people become immune after infection. Some acquire immunity from a vaccine. They’re all ‘natural,’ meaning the immune system is doing what it’s supposed to do.”
“Flagging this for medical misinformation,” conservative influencer Ian Miles Cheong asked on Twitter.
“Where’s the disinformation tag @jack?” asked Brad Polumbo, contributor for FEE and other media outlets.
“This is hot garbage. ‘Natural immunity’ is absolutely real, and it’s only among people who had COVID already. The literal opposite of your strawman definition. You churnalists think you are slick ~reimagining~ the meaning of words — but most people see through it,” Christina Pushaw, Ron DeSantis’ Press Secretary, also responded in a tweet that has over two thousand likes.
In the responses to VICE, hundreds of users can be read citing journalistic and scientific sources on natural immunity. Most users called the tweet and the VICE article medical misinformation and asked Twitter to label the publication as false information. However, the social network has yet to post a warning sign.
Following the criticism, VICE decided to update the note and added text stating that the term natural immunity generated “confusion.”
This is not the first controversy VICE magazine has been in. On the same day of the terrorist attack in Kabul that killed 13 American soldiers, mostly Marines, VICE called the Marines “neo-Nazis” in an article that was widely criticized on social media.
“While many vets are being outed as far-right extremists, one branch keeps popping up when it comes to neo-Nazis: the United States Marine Corps,” read that article, which was posted on Twitter and later deleted, but remains on the magazine’s website.