Cedars-Sinai researchers found that healthcare workers who were vaccinated against COVID-19 didn’t respond as well as they should have. The results of the new study were written up in the Cell Press journal iScience.
In a matched control study, researchers looked at how healthy healthcare workers at Cedars-Sinai responded to vaccinations. The average age of the people who took part in the trial was 48, and they all got the Pfizer Inc. BNT162b2 shot.
“We found that a small number of the healthcare workers we tested did not have a strong immune response to the BNT162b2 vaccine. They made fewer antibodies to the spike protein on the surface of the COVID-19-causing SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Even after the second and third doses of a booster, the response was still low.” Peter Chen, MD, who is the Medallion Chair in Molecular Medicine at Cedars-Sinai and one of the study’s main authors, is also a co-author.
Researchers say that the “low responders” in the study were not very old, but their immune systems responded to the vaccine as if they were much older.
This study is part of the Coronavirus Risk Associations and Longitudinal Evaluation (CORAL) project at Cedars and Sinai. Researchers say that this study’s finding of low vaccine response in people who are otherwise healthy calls for more research.
“We’d like to look into the pathways that led to the premature aging phenotype to see if it’s specifically responsible for lower antibody levels after vaccination,” said Susan Cheng, MD, MPH, the Erika J. Glazer Chair in Women’s Cardiovascular Health and Population Science and a corresponding author of the study.
“Our study also didn’t look at the lymphocytes that kill cells that are already infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This is an important part of immunity against COVID-19,” said Cheng, who is also the director of the Institute for Research on Healthy Aging in the Department of Cardiology at the Smidt Heart Institute.
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Researchers say that even though some people’s immune systems don’t respond well to the vaccine, there is still strong evidence that vaccination is a very effective way to prevent major illness and death from COVID-19.
“We should all get vaccinated because the BNT162b2 vaccine helped most of the low responders get some immunity. This group still had memory cells, which can make more antibodies when the virus attacks, but at a lower level “said Chen, who is in charge of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Cedars-Sinai.