Tuesday, April 16

Ómicron: Are vaccine antibodies better or those generated after infection?

Most governments accept the state “recovered” as a form of immunity to covid-19; this means that if someone was recently infected and recovered, they are considered adequately immunized.

But, How much do antibodies protect against infection compared to those from vaccines? And how is the Omicron variant factored into the equation?

The answer to the question is not simple. Up to now, research suggests it mainly depends on which variant a person was infected with and when they tested positive.

Vaccination Recovery: What the Research Says So Far

Before the Omicron wave, the general scientific rule was that an outbreak of infection (of any variant) provided immunity comparable to a single dose of vaccine, according to Julian Schulze zur Wiesch, head of the department for infectious diseases at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf.

Before Omicron was part of the picture, research generally showed that people who had acquired immunity through a covid-19 infection were protected in the following months to infection, but that immunity began to wane after four to six months.

How much do antibodies protect against infection compared to those from vaccines? (Photo: Miguel A. Padriñán/Pexels)

But it’s still not clear if that preomicron “natural immunity” protected more than vaccination.

A study published in late October 2021 by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that unvaccinated adults who tested positive three to six months earlier were five times more likely to test positive. than vaccinated adults who had not previously been infected.

This study acknowledged that the research was only conducted in patients with disease severe enough to require hospitalization and that the results cannot be generalized to include outpatients.

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The CDC report came on the heels of an Israeli study in August with very different results, which revealed that people who had received the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine and had not previously tested positive had 13 times more likely to be infected with the Delta variant than people who had been infected but not vaccinated.

The research, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, currently qualifies as the largest study comparing immunity gained from prior infection to vaccine-induced immunity. While the CDC study surveyed some 7,000 hospital patients, the Israeli study surveyed more than 30,000 members of the national health system.

Most governments accept “recovered” status as a form of immunity to covid-19. (Photo: Miguel A. Padriñán/Pexels)

“It’s a bit confusing, because there are so many variables,” dice Zur Wiesch and DW. This is because our immune response is complex and influenced by many factors: the time of infection, the variant, the type of vaccine we receive, whether we receive boosters, and the overall strength of our immune system.

Age is probably important

Research shows that age is also likely to play a role in whether we will be re-infected after having the virus.

A study involving US war veterans, still undergoing peer review, shows that mRNA vaccines offered stronger protection against infection, hospitalization and death among older people than earlier infections of covid-19.

But for participants younger than 65, the protection offered by the vaccines was about the same as that from a previous infection, according to the study. The authors also disclosed that they had received prior financial support from Pfizer.

The study, published in September, supports the findings of another population-level research in Denmark and published in March, which was based on data collected during the second wave of the pandemic in late 2020, before vaccines were widely available. .

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Among younger people who tested positive during the first wave, protection against a new infection was around 80%. However, among people aged 65 and older, immunity acquired through previous infection was only about 47%.

Our immune response is complex. (Photo: Ana Tarazevich/ Pexels)

How does Ómicron influence immunity?

The Ómicron wave is so new that there are still no conclusive data available on the quality of immunity provided through infection, but it is likely to be similar to other variants, says Zur Wiesch. That means that if someone has been infected with omicron in the past few weeks, they are probably safe from reinfection for months to come.

But because Omicron has a higher transmissibility rate than previous strains, higher levels of antibodies are needed to prevent infection. Immunity gained through just two vaccinations or infection with earlier variants of covid-19 (such as delta or alpha) will not necessarily prevent omicron infection, Zur Wiesch says.

Also, regardless of whether a person was previously infected or vaccinated twice, a booster is the best defense against re-infection.

The efficacy of protection against Omicron provided by “natural immunity” from other coronavirus variants may be as low as 19%, according to a study conducted by the Imperial College London Covid-19 Response Team in late December 2021. .

Thus, early findings generally indicate that as long as you have some form of immunity, either through two doses of a vaccine or a previous infection plus a single dose, an Omicron infection is likely to be mild.

Does “super immunity” exist?

The body seems to respond best to a cocktail of mixed immunity, according to Zur Wiesch, citing a study his team conducted among German health workers in 2021. Patients who received different types of vaccines, the one from AstraZeneca, for example, and then a dose of Moderna and a booster, seemed to have some of the best protection.

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Other studies have indicated that people with a combination of immunity acquired through a past infection plus two injections seem to have the best results. Immunologists have called this phenomenon “hybrid” or “super” immunity.

Also, while some research shows that the severity of infection might increase antibodies, other studies have found no difference.

But these findings don’t take Omicron into account, so we don’t yet know if they translate to the current wave, Zur Wiesch says, adding that for now we’ll just have to wait for the science.

Despite the unknowns, one thing is clear to Zur Wiesch: Unless a person has been infected with Omicron in the last week or two, a vaccine or booster is their best chance of avoiding a Covid-19 infection and passing it on to others. others.

With information from DW.

Also read:
Nearly 130,000 students are absent from Los Angeles schools due to Omicron
· Ómicron generates a record in Florida with more than 61,000 cases reported daily
· Ómicron: What happens if I get vaccinated and I am infected with Covid without knowing it


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