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SARS-CoV-2 infection and vaccine-induced antibody responses are long-lasting

A long-term analysis conducted by leading microbiologists at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai reveals that antibody responses induced by COVID-19 vaccines are long-lasting.

The study results, published online in the journal Immunitychallenge the idea that mRNA-based vaccine immunity wanes quickly.

The emergence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in late 2019 sparked the global pandemic that is now in its fifth year. Vaccines that were developed at record speed have saved millions of lives. However, the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 variants and waning immunity have decreased the effectiveness of the vaccines against symptomatic disease. The common perception now is that mRNA-based vaccine-induced immunity wanes quickly. However, this assumption is largely based on data from short-term studies that include a very limited number of data points following peak responses.

The Mount Sinai research team’s analysis of more than 8,000 samples collected over a three-year period in New York City examined how antibody responses to the virus’s spike protein changed after infections, during the primary immunisation series, during monovalent and bivalent booster vaccination, and during breakthrough infections.

They found that upon primary immunisation, participants with pre-existing immunity (those who had previously been infected with the virus) mounted higher antibody responses faster and achieved higher steady-state antibody titers than individuals who had not been previously infected. The waning of antibody response was characterised by two phases: an initial rapid decay from the strong peak after vaccination, followed by a stabilisation phase with very slow decay, suggesting that antibody levels were very long-lasting.

Booster vaccination equalised the differences in antibody concentration between participants with and without pre-existing immunity. Breakthrough infections increased antibodies to similar levels as an additional vaccine dose in individuals who had not previously been infected.

This investigation represents one of the most extensive and in-depth assessments of the longevity of SARS-CoV-2 immune responses to date. Its major conclusion is that changes in the virus that allow it to evade immunity, rather than waning immunity, are the major reason for breakthrough infections.

“Ours is one of the longest-running COVID-19 studies out there,” said Viviana Simon, MD, PhD, Professor of Microbiology, Medicine and Pathology, Molecular and Cell-Based Medicine, at Icahn Mount Sinai and lead author of the paper. “Following the same group of people monthly over time is rare and powerful because you can compare immune responses on an individual level. SARS-CoV-2 continues to evolve, so this research is important to provide an understanding about the impact of new variants and new vaccine doses on a healthy immune system, and to guide all of us to make the best choices to maintain protection against the virus that continues to circulate in our communities.”

This in-depth analysis was made possible through the Protection Associated with Rapid Immunity to SARS-CoV-2 (PARIS) study, an observational, longitudinal cohort of health care workers of the Mount Sinai Health System that was initiated in April 2020.

“People have pandemic fatigue and vaccine uptake has slowed, especially after the vaccines started to be charged to insurance,” said Komal Srivastava, MS, Director of Strategy and Operation of the Mount Sinai Center for Vaccine Research and Pandemic Preparedness and co-first author of the paper. “We were pleasantly surprised to see that the booster doses promoted a large antibody response regardless of a person’s personal infection history, so we are hopeful that our study findings will encourage people to get their vaccine boosters when eligible and to stay engaged in research. Our work also showcases the impact of viral evolution over time and why it’s critical to keep studies like this going, despite the pandemic fatigue.”

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Upcoming Events

Infection Prevention & Control

National Conference Centre, Birmingham
23rd - 24th April 2024

ESGE Days 2024, Symposium – ‘Elevating Endoscopy: Inspiring Progress and Innovation’

Estrel Congress Center (room 15), Berlin, Germany
25th April 2024, 16:30 – 17:30 CEST

National DERS and SMART pump conference

BCEC, Birmingham
29th April 2024

Theatres & Decontamination Conference 2024

Coventry Building Society Arena
16th May 2024

The AfPP Roadshow - Birmingham

Millennium Point, Birmingham
18th May 2024

BAUN Summer Educational Event – Essential Urology Skills

Crowne Plaza, Newcastle Stephenson Quarter
6th June 2024

Access the latest issue of Clinical Services Journal on your mobile device together with an archive of back issues.

Download the FREE Clinical Services Journal app from your device's App store

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