Covid: Will Pfizer, Moderna vaccines provide long-term immunity?
Experts weigh in on the jabs following a study published in Nature journal.
Vaccines manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna set off a persistent immune reaction in the human body that may protect against Covid-19 for years, scientists reported recently.
A study published in the Nature journal stated there is growing evidence that most people immunised with messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines may not need boosters, as long as the virus and its variants do not mutate beyond its current form.
The study also said that people who recovered from Covid-19 before being vaccinated may not require the booster dose, even if the virus undergoes significant transformation. However, it remains unclear whether vaccinations alone will have long-lasting effects against the Covid-19 pandemic.
Doctors in the UAE have said that while the study results are promising, there needs to be more research to conclusively state that mRNA vaccines will be long-term solutions against Covid-19.
On Sunday, the UAE’s Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) announced the approval of the emergency registration of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine.
MoHAP decided to introduce the vaccine in the country after the completion of clinical trials and a strict assessment conducted to approve the local emergency use of the vaccine.
Dr Tholfkar Al Baarj, the chief clinical officer at Al Futtaim Healthcare, said, “Moderna’s vaccine, similar to the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, uses mRNA technology and contains genetic instructions for the cells to make the coronavirus’ spike protein. The study reinforces a previous finding, which was first reported in May, that people who have both recovered from and have been fully inoculated with one of the mRNA vaccines have an even more robust immune response.”
He added, “The study also showed that the vaccines produced high levels of neutralising antibodies that were effective against three variants of Covid-19, including the Beta variant that has been shown to reduce the effectiveness of vaccines. Nearly four months after the first dose of either vaccine, the body still had the so-called germinal centres in the lymph nodes, which effectively train the body’s immune cells to protect against future infection.”
Dr Srinivasa Rao Polumuru, a specialist in internal medicine at the NMC Specialty Hospital at Al Nahda in Dubai, told Khaleej Times, “The study, published in the journal Nature, adds to a growing body of evidence that protection from the virus, once the vaccine is taken, could be long-lasting. It may mean that booster shots for the mRNA coronavirus vaccines aren’t needed anytime soon.”
He said, “It’s a good sign for how durable our immunity is from this vaccine. Germinal centres in the human body are the key to a persistent, protective immune response. Researchers found that these germinal centres in participants’ lymph nodes were highly active nearly four months after the first dose of vaccine, suggesting that fully vaccinated people could have long-term protection.”
Dr Prasanna Kumar, a critical care specialist and in-charge of the intensive care unit at Medeor Hospital in Dubai, said, “mRNA technology is a modern method of developing vaccines and is touted to be the future in vaccine development.”
Dr Kumar said traditional vaccines put a weakened or inactive virus into human bodies to trigger the development of antibodies. “This is not the same in the case of mRNA vaccines. Instead, mRNA vaccines teach the body’s cells to produce a protein that boosts the production of antibodies. This immune response helps us in countering the actual virus when it enters our body and keeps us safe from contracting the infection,” he said.
“So, the latest studies have found that the mRNA vaccines offer a longer immune response to Covid-19. The scientists who studied samples have found that the immune cell responses located in the germinal centre of the lymph nodes remained active for a longer period than expected. This indicates that these vaccines offer extended protection,” he added.
Dr Abhilash Ramachandran Nair, a specialist of internal medicine at Aster Hospital, Al Qusais, Dubai, said, “The study was able to identify high levels of germinal centre B cells in the lymph nodes in individuals who received full doses of these mRNA vaccines. Significant numbers of germinal centre B cells were found in the lymph nodes of these individuals for up to 12 weeks after receiving the second dose of vaccination.”
He added, “Though this development is good news, it doesn’t say for how long the immunity effect from the vaccine will be present.”
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