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(LifeSiteNews) — A new study released Wednesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledges what numerous independent studies have found over the past year: Natural immunity from prior COVID-19 infection provides stronger protection against the virus than the COVID vaccines.

The data from California and New York cases spanning May to November 2021 found that, while the vaccinated had lower rates of first-time infection by a factor of 6.2 in California and 4.5 in New York than the unvaccinated who had never before had COVID, the unvaccinated with natural immunity had infection rates 29 times lower in California and 4.7 times lower in New York. Those who had both vaccination and prior infection had lower rates still.

The report also showed that in California, the naturally-immune were less likely to be hospitalized (0.003%) than the vaccinated (0.007%). New York did not provide hospitalization data.

“These results demonstrate that vaccination protects against COVID-19 and related hospitalization, and that surviving a previous infection protects against a reinfection and related hospitalization,” the CDC said. “Importantly, infection-derived protection was higher after the Delta variant became predominant, a time when vaccine-induced immunity for many persons declined because of immune evasion and immunologic waning.”

The report cautioned that the data predates the rise of the omicron variant and widespread dissemination of booster shots, variables for which “[s]imilar data accounting … will need to be assessed.”

Health officials reacting to the findings in the mainstream media acknowledged the strength of natural immunity, but argued that vaccination was still preferable. Dr. Eli Rosenberg, New York state deputy director for science, told CNN that “having Covid the first time carries with it significant risks, and becoming vaccinated and staying up-to-date with boosters really is the only safe choice for preventing COVID infection and severe disease.”

In fact, many Americans continue to harbor serious doubts as to the COVID shots’ safety, and regardless of vaccination status, most Americans below age 65 face less than a 1% risk of dying from COVID in the absence of other negative health factors, such as obesity, diabetes, or vitamin deficiency. Further, the majority of American omicron cases so far have been among the vaccinated, and the variant (which is now believed to make up 95% of all new COVID cases in the U.S.) appears to be less dangerous than its predecessors because it targets the upper respiratory tract rather than the lungs.

Additionally, Americans’ “safe choices” for dealing with COVID are artificially limited by the Biden administration’s rationing of monoclonal antibody treatments and the medical establishment’s hostility to the use of established drugs such as ivermectin.

Still, some experts acknowledged the policy ramifications of the news. Jeffrey Klausner, professor of medicine and public health at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, told NBC News that “policy in the United States should be updated, like in many European countries, to allow for people to go to work, to go to school, if they have evidence of recovery of infection without requiring vaccination.”

To those following alternative media, natural immunity is nothing new. The conservative Brownstone Institute has compiled more than 140 research studies finding that COVID immunity from prior infection “is equal to or more robust and superior to existing vaccine,” yet the federal government is heavily invested in the narrative that natural immunity is unreliable and the vaccines are the only true protection against COVID.

Last September, White House COVID czar Dr. Anthony Fauci admitted that “I don’t have a really firm answer to you on” why those who have already had COVID should get vaccinated for it, but it was “something that we’re going to have to discuss.” Many Americans assumed such discussions were already well underway.

Studies have found that vaccine-induced COVID protection wanes around six months (or potentially sooner). Last October the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it was expanding emergency-use authorization for booster shots six months after the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and two months after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. By contrast, an October Yale study projected that natural immunity would last three times longer at 17 months.

Overall, the reliability of COVID data continues to be hindered by a variety of factors, such as the fact that many hospitals list patients as “with COVID” even if they are being treated for something unrelated (as Fauci recently admitted), as well as the fact that some hospital systems have stopped testing vaccinated patients for COVID as long as they are asymptomatic.