KT explains: What is hybrid immunity against Covid-19?

Photo: AP
Photo: AP

Dubai - Doctors say the UAE may be witnessing this phenomenon, given the recent drop in daily infections



by

Dhanusha Gokulan

Published: Sun 12 Sep 2021, 6:47 PM

Last updated: Mon 20 Sep 2021, 9:36 AM

‘Superhuman immunity’ or ‘hybrid immunity’ is a recently coined term scientists are using to describe those who have developed a so-called bulletproof immunity to the Covid-19 virus.

Doctors in the UAE explained that hybrid immunity is a result of the combination of natural and vaccine-generated immunity.

“When the naturally-gained immunity against SARS-CoV-2 combines with vaccine-generated immunity, a larger-than-expected immune response arises,” said Dr Sundar Elayaperumal, a consultant microbiologist at Burjeel Hospital.

In light of the drop in Covid-19 cases across the country, a cross-section of doctors Khaleej Times reached out to said the phenomenon of ‘hybrid immunity’ may be occurring among UAE residents.

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Dr Tholfkar Al Baaj, the chief clinical officer at Al-Futtaim Health explained individuals with a hybrid immune system response are in a ‘good position’.

“Studies show that the antibodies in such individuals’ blood can even neutralise SARS-CoV-1, the first coronavirus, which emerged 20 years ago. That virus is very, very different from SARS-CoV-2. Furthermore, there is a lot of research now focused on finding a pan-coronavirus vaccine that would protect against all future variants,” he said.

“Based on all these findings, it looks like the immune system is eventually going to have the edge over this virus, and if we’re lucky, SARS-CoV-2 will eventually fall into that category of viruses that gives us only a mild cold,” Dr Al Baaj added.

How does it work?

According to Dr Mohammed Salman Khan, general medicine at Aster Clinic in Qusais, a single dose of an RNA-based Covid-19 vaccine after natural infection of the SARS-CoV-2 virus provides superior immune protection as compared to double doses of vaccines in infection-naïve persons.

Has UAE achieved herd immunity?

Doctors have credited UAE’s robust vaccination campaign, including among teenagers, for the drop in Covid-19 numbers across the country.

“Herd immunity is usually achieved when at least 80 per cent of the total population gets immune — either by getting infected with the virus or inoculated through vaccinations,” said Dr Al Baaj.

“We can say we have quite nearly achieved herd immunity, mostly because we have the highest percentage of vaccinations administered in the world," said Dr Khan. "More than 79 per cent of the UAE's population is fully vaccinated and over 90 per cent of the population has received one dose of the Covid vaccine.”

Vaccination rates among children

UAE has the highest vaccination rates among school-going children which has the “wonderful effect” of increasing immunity among the population, said Dr Hiba Waleed Kashmoola, a specialist in family medicine at Medcare Medical Centre, Sharjah.

“Having high inoculation rates among children is crucial in reducing community-based transmission, as children can be silent spreaders of the virus in society. With schools reopening, it becomes even more important to increase the vaccination rate amongst this section of the population to prevent any potential surge of infections that might result from in-person learning,” added Dr Al Baaj.

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