Getting COVID-19 is never good, but a new study has found that if you were already fully vaccinated, you might turn into Superman.
Breakthrough cases are now more common as virus variants Delta and Omicron sweep across the nation, but researchers from Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) have found that such cases lead to “super immunity” to future SARS-CoV-2 variants.
“You can’t get a better immune response than this,” says senior author Fikadu Tafesse, Ph.D., assistant professor of molecular microbiology and immunology in the OHSU School of Medicine, in a university release. “These vaccines are very effective against severe disease. Our study suggests that individuals who are vaccinated and then exposed to a breakthrough infection have super immunity.”
The study found that “antibodies measured in blood samples of breakthrough cases were both more abundant and much more effective – as much as 1,000% more effective – than antibodies generated two weeks following the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. The study suggests each exposure following vaccination actually serves to strengthen immune response to subsequent exposures even to new variants of the virus,” OHSU said in its release.
Tafesse said the level of immunity is “sometimes up to 2,000 percent, so it’s really high immunity.”
“I think this speaks to an eventual end game,” said study co-author Marcel Curlin, M.D., associate professor of infectious diseases in the OHSU School of Medicine. “It doesn’t mean we’re at the end of the pandemic, but it points to where we’re likely to land: Once you’re vaccinated and then exposed to the virus, you’re probably going to be reasonably well-protected from future variants.”
“Our study implies that the long-term outcome is going to be a tapering-off of the severity of the worldwide epidemic,” he said.
Tafesse said the researchers didn’t study the Omicron variant specifically, but added “based on the results of this study we would anticipate that breakthrough infections from the omicron variant will generate a similarly strong immune response among vaccinated people.”
About eight out of 10 people who have caught the Omicron variant of COVID-19 were fully vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said last week.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, an immunologist and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who serves as President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser on COVID-19, said federal officials are “continuing to evaluate” whether to urge Americans to get a booster shot to be considered fully vaccinated for COVID-19. “For official requirements, it’s still two shots of the mRNA and one shot of the J&J for the official determination of what’s required or not,” Fauci told ABC News last week.
“But I think if you look at the data, the more and more it becomes clear that if you want to be optimally protected you really should get a booster,” Fauci added. “I think we’ll be continuing to evaluate what the official designation is” to be considered fully vaccinated, he said.
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