F Rosa Rubicondior: Covidiot News - Unvaccinated People Are Still Worse Off Even if They Survive an Infection

Wednesday, 26 January 2022

Covidiot News - Unvaccinated People Are Still Worse Off Even if They Survive an Infection

Vaccination before or after SARS-CoV-2 infection leads to robust humoral response and antibodies that effectively neutralize variants

A second research group has reported that vaccinations against COVID-19 given before or after breakthrough infections, significantly enhances antibody levels, again making the case for vaccination unarguable. Readers may remember how I reported on a similar paper a few days ago.

This time the research comes from the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), Portland, Oregon, USA. The team found that it makes little difference whether you have the vaccine after being infected with SARS-CoV-2 or whether you are unlucky enough to get a 'breakthrough' infection after having been vaccinated. However, with the virus now being so common in the environment, the chance of a breakthrough infection, post vaccine is high, though not as high as for an unvaccinated person. Without the vaccine, however, natural immunity following infection is much lower.

It makes no difference whether you get infected and then vaccinated, or if you get vaccinated and then a breakthrough infection. In either case, you will get a really, really robust immune response — amazingly high.

The likelihood of getting breakthrough infections is high because there is so much virus around us right now, but we position ourselves better by getting vaccinated. And if the virus comes, we’ll get a milder case and end up with this super immunity.

Fikadu Tafesse, Ph.D., Senior author
Assistant professor of molecular microbiology and immunology
OHSU School of Medicine
Portland, Oregon, USA
The OHSU news release accompanying the team's open access publication, in the journal Science Immunology, explains:
The new study found that it doesn’t matter whether someone gets a breakthrough infection or gets vaccinated after a natural infection. In both cases, the immune response measured in blood serum revealed antibodies that were equally more abundant and more potent — at least 10 times more potent — than immunity generated by vaccination alone.

The study was done before the emergence of the highly transmissible omicron variant, but researchers expect the hybrid immune responses would be similar.


Researchers recruited a total of 104 people, all OHSU employees who were vaccinated by the Pfizer vaccine, and then carefully divided them into three groups: 42 who were vaccinated with no infection, 31 who were vaccinated after an infection, and 31 who had breakthrough infections following vaccination. Controlling for age, sex and time from vaccination and infection, the researchers drew blood samples from each participant and exposed the samples to three variants of the live SARS-CoV-2 virus in a Biosafety Level 3 lab on OHSU’s Marquam Hill campus.

They found both of the groups with “hybrid immunity” generated greater levels of immunity compared with the group that was vaccinated with no infection.

A path toward endemic COVID

I would expect at this point many vaccinated people are going to wind up with breakthrough infections — and hence a form of hybrid immunity

I can guarantee that [immunity from infection alone] will be variable, with some people getting equivalent immunity to vaccination, but most will not, and there is no way, short of laboratory testing, to know who gets what immunity. Vaccination makes it much more likely to be assured of a good immune response.

Bill Messer, M.D., Ph.D., senior co-author
Assistant professor of molecular microbiology and immunology, and medicine (infectious diseases)
OHSU School of Medicine
Portland, Oregon, USA
With the wildly contagious omicron variant now circulating across the globe, the new findings suggest each new breakthrough infection potentially brings the pandemic closer to the end.


Over time, the virus will run into an ever-expanding pool of human immunity.

OHSU scientists say they haven’t tested multiple rounds of natural infection, although many people will likely find themselves in that category, given that millions of people in the United States and around the world remain entirely unvaccinated. With the spread of the highly contagious omicron variant, many unvaccinated people who were previously infected are likely to confront the virus again.

Immunity from natural infection alone is variable. Some people produce a strong response and others do not, but vaccination combined with immunity from infection almost always provides very strong responses.

These results, together with our previous work, point to a time when SARS-CoV-2 may become a mostly mild endemic infection like a seasonal respiratory tract infection, instead of a worldwide pandemic.

Marcel Curlin, M.D., senior co-author
Associate professor of medicine (infectious diseases)
OHSU School of Medicine and director of OHSU Occupational Health. Portland, Oregon, USA
For that group, previous research reveals a much more variable level of immune response than vaccination, Messer said.
This is the second paper in the last few days to highlight the importance of being vaccinated in the current situation and how vital it is to have a large proportion of world population vaccinated, if we are to brining this pandemic to an end by building herd immunity to the level where SARS-CoV-2 becomes a relatively mild, endemic, probably seasonal, upper respiratory tract infection, with each infection boosting the antibody levels and making further infections much less likely.

In the abstract to their paper in Science Immunology, the scientists explain more:
Copyright: © 2022 The authors.
Published by American Association for the Advancement of Science
Current COVID-19 vaccines significantly reduce overall morbidity and mortality and are vitally important to controlling the pandemic. Individuals who previously recovered from COVID-19 have enhanced immune responses after vaccination (hybrid immunity) compared to their naïve-vaccinated peers; however, the effects of post-vaccination breakthrough infections on humoral immune response remain to be determined. Here, we measure neutralizing antibody responses from 104 vaccinated individuals, including those with breakthrough infections, hybrid immunity, and no infection history. We find that human immune sera following breakthrough infection and vaccination following natural infection, broadly neutralize SARS-CoV-2 variants to a similar degree. While age negatively correlates with antibody response after vaccination alone, no correlation with age was found in breakthrough or hybrid immune groups. Together, our data suggest that the additional antigen exposure from natural infection substantially boosts the quantity, quality, and breadth of humoral immune response regardless of whether it occurs before or after vaccination.

Bates, Timothy A.; McBride, Savannah K.; Leier, Hans C.; Guzman, Gaelen; Lyski, Zoe L.; Schoen, Devin; Winders, Bradie; Lee, Joon-Yong; Lee, David Xthona; Messer, William B.; Curlin, Marcel E.; Tafesse, Fikadu G.
Vaccination before or after SARS-CoV-2 infection leads to robust humoral response and antibodies that effectively neutralize variants
Science Immunology (2022)
; DOI: 10.1126/sciimmunol.abn8014

Copyright: © 2022 The authors. Published by American Association for the Advancement of Science
Open access
Reprinted under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license (CC BY 4.0)

There is little doubt now that getting vaccinated is not only much better for the individual but that vaccinated people are also playing their part in beating the pandemic so life can return to normal. Unvaccinated people are not only free-loading on the rest of us, but they are risking their own health and welfare and that of the rest of the planet. In addition to tying up health care resources so depriving people who need them for non-COVID reasons, they are needlessly prolonging the pandemic and delaying the day when life can return to normal and economies begin to recover.

The Science Proves it!
Get Vaccinated Now!

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