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COVID-19 Antibodies Get Stronger With Repetition of Vax ‘Boosts’ Study

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Recent research supports the case for COVID-19 booster shots now even though the formulas are not specifically targeted to the most recent Omicron and Delta variants, as the researchers suggest in a study published today.

Dr Otto Yang

Senior author Otto Yang, MD, professor in the department of infectious diseases and microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics at the David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, told Medscape Medical News that their findings are published in the peer-reviewed journal mBio, suggest encouraging news regarding the merits of boosters.

F. Javier Ibarrondo PhD, also from David Geffen School, compared immune reactions between 15 vaccinated people who had never been infected by SARS-CoV-2 before , and 10 who had been infected. The majority of them had received the Pfizer or Moderna two-dose mRNA vaccines.

They evaluated the effectiveness of antibodies against seven spike variants of five mutations. They studied people just after they had recovered from a mild case of COVID-19 after experiencing symptoms prior to April 2020. The researchers then compared their group with those who were not affected and who were vaccinated shortly after.

Yang stated that they found that those who had COVID and who were vaccinated had more antibodies to the virus. They also had better quality antibodies, which makes them more able to fight variants.

Yang said that the antibodies created through COVID-19 alone or getting vaccinated with COVID were not able to protect against certain variants.

He said that people who had COVID had more effective antibodies than those who were vaccinated after getting COVID.

Making B Cells Stronger

Yang explained that boosters were not available at the time Yang conducted the study, but it was reasonable to suppose that they’d behave in a similar way.

He stated that COVID plus vaccine is the sole example of this, but COVID plus vaccine isn’t any different from vaccinations and boosters.

Yang says it follows the basic idea of antibody research: somatic hypermutation.

He explained that once B cells have produced antibodies, the more they are exposed to substances they’re making antibodies for, the more they modify the antibodies to make them stronger. “It is in line with what we would expect, however, it’s likely to be faster than we thought — this increase in antibodies — which is positive news.”

He said that even in the very limited situations the researchers examined the cells, they could continue to improve.

Yang declared that boosters will increase the number of antibodies after they have been reduced and will also increase their quality.

The authors say in their paper “Whether this can also be achieved in SARS-CoV-2-naive people by vaccination on its own or by administering additional doses beyond the original vaccination regimen of two doses remains to be determined.”

Yang has stated that a common argument against boosters is that people hold off because they believe that a booster for a specific model will soon be available.

“What this (study) suggests is that even If you take the booster now , you can still enjoy some benefits against these variants when the vaccine isn’t specifically targeted against these variants,” Yang said.

He also stated that several studies had already published similar results at the time the paper was published.

mBio. Published online December 7 2021. Full Text

The study was funded by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the National Institutes of Health through the UCLA AIDS Institute and Center for AIDS Research and the James B. Pendleton Charitable Trust and the McCarthy Foundation.

The authors have not reported any relevant financial connections.

Marcia Frellick is a freelance journalist located in Chicago. She was previously a journalist for, Science News, Chicago Tribune, and Chicago Sun-Times. Cloud (Minnesota) Times. Follow her on Twitter @mfrellick

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