Pa. correctional officers object to Gov. Wolf’s COVID mandates, cite natural immunity as defense

Pennsylvania Politics

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — If you’ve had coronavirus, is that the same as being vaccinated? It’s an important question now that Governor Wolf is requiring unvaccinated state workers in certain jobs to get the shot.

Correctional officers will have to get the COVID vaccine or get tested frequently. They object to both. “They’re gonna stick a swab up someone’s nose. We’re not ok with that,” Union President of the Pa. State Corrections Officers Association, John Eckenrode said.

They also reject the Governor’s math and science. “Natural immunity is being ignored,” Eckenrode said.

He also says at least 40% of prison guards have had COVID, which should count the same as those who were vaccinated. “There’s proven science that says if you’ve had coronavirus that you have antibodies in your body that will protect you from the virus,” Eckenrode said.

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The state’s health secretary agrees. “Yes there is a natural immunity that comes with your body’s response to having COVID,” Allison Beam said.

So do doctors. “When we do encounter the virus we do establish natural immunity, there’s no doubt about that,” Dr. Michael Spangler, UPMC Memorial vice president of Medical Affairs, said.

But that comes with a but. “COVID has not been around on the earth long enough for us to establish how long natural immunity lasts for,” Dr. Spangler said.

So the prevailing medical wisdom. If you’ve had the virus and you’re in a congregate setting, getting the shot is the safest choice. “Folks who had COVID months ago may not have had that response to the delta variant so it’s more important that folks get vaccinated and add a layer of whatever protection is necessary to natural immunity to getting COVID,” Beam said.

State workers who work in high-congregate settings, like prisons, must be vaccinated by September 7 or submit to weekly tests.

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