According to Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) experts, a person who has been vaccinated twice against the coronavirus and contracts the virus develops a “super-immunity” to the virus, with the antibodies produced being 10 times more powerful than antibodies from people who had not contracted COVID-19.
“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,” OHSU notes.
The scientists write, “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.”
The study by the experts preceded the emergence of the Omicron variant, but the scientists aver that the same results would apply to the Omicron variant.
Author Dr. Fikadu Tafesse stated, “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.”
Senior co-author Bill Messer, assistant professor of molecular microbiology and immunology, and medicine (infectious diseases) in the OHSU School of Medicine, added, “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 such immunity 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.”
The scientists worked with 104 participants; 31 fully vaccinated individuals with PCR-confirmed breakthrough infections, 31 individuals with one (6 individuals) or two vaccine (25 individuals) doses following recovery from COVID-19, and 42 fully vaccinated individuals with no history of COVID-19 or breakthrough infection.
Dr. Marcel Curlin, study author and infectious disease expert, asserted, “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. … 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.”
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