Coronavirus Kentucky Politics

The Kentucky Senate has passed a symbolic resolution that would declare a positive COVID-19 antibody test the equivalent of being vaccinated, as far as the state is concerned.

Senate Joint Resolution 80 says people will be considered equivalent to being fully vaccinated if their test shows a high enough level of neutralizing antibodies. That number would have to put them above the 20th percentile of the immunized population, according to bill’s sponsor, Sen. Ralph Alvarado.

Alvarado, a Republican physician from Winchester, said studies show that people with natural infections provide protection perhaps equal or even superior to vaccinations.

“If someone has below the 20th percentile, that would not be sufficient. In fact, it would likely encourage people to go get a booster to try to increase the amount of antibodies they would have present in their body,” Alvarado said.

If approved, the measure would apply to employees of state government, but not private businesses. Some lawmakers hope it would offer state employees an alternative to mandated vaccination.

About 56% of Kentuckians are considered fully vaccinated and 24% have received booster shots, according to state data.

Though people who recover naturally from a coronavirus infection do have some level of immunity, public health experts still say getting vaccinated is the safest way to build protection and slow the spread of the virus.

Sen. Karen Berg, a Democrat from Louisville and also a physician, expressed strong opposition to the measure, saying natural immunity doesn’t offer the same protection as the vaccine does.

Berg went on to say natural immunity can wane quickly and measuring protection is very challenging. She said current data doesn’t support the approach.

“I want this to be true. It is not yet true and anybody who votes in favor of this is spitting in the eye of science and really hurting our Commonwealth,” said Berg.

Under the bill, the requirement would be effective through next January. Alvarado noted 23 European countries now recognize COVID recovery and vaccinations to be equivalent. The bill now heads to the House.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives.