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Breakthrough COVID-19 infections may offer extra layer of protection against virus

KING 5's Jake Whittenberg went searching for answers after becoming infected with COVID-19.

SEATTLE — Vaccinated? Check.

Boosted? Check.

Unfortunately, you can still catch COVID-19, but does this make you "super immune?" 

Google searches for the term "super immunity" increased by 550% in the U.S. over the past three months, according to Google Trends data, but what does that phrase mean?

Vaccine breakthrough infections are becoming more common with the highly contagious omicron variant surging across the country. 

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If there is any good news, it's that the combination of vaccination plus natural immunity from infection does appear to provide an extra defense against the virus.

"You do have some kind of 'super immunity,''' said Dr. Anna Wald,  head of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the University of Washington. 

She says natural immunity can offer protection that the vaccine cannot.

''When you have natural immunity, your body has an opportunity to make an immune response to create a kind of protein other than spike," she said. "With that, you are offered some kind of broader protection."

Wald still says the vaccine is the best form of protection because of the high level of antibody response.

"It's not often you get a vaccine that is better than nature," Wald said.

While many immunologists agree that hybrid immunity offers an additional layer of defense, it is still unknown how long the strength of that protection may last.  

Among the vaccinated and boosted, getting infected with omicron appears to be offering some kind of relief. 

Roughly 63% of Washington state's population is fully vaccinated against the virus, and more than 2.3 million booster doses have been distributed out across the state.