This Makes Your Antibody Response 7 Times Stronger, New Study Finds

One factor can significantly strengthen your immune response from the vaccine.

With more and more reports coming out about breakthrough infections, increasing COVID cases, and certain vaccines yielding less protection against the now-dominant Delta variant, pandemic panic is rising once more, even among those who are fully vaccinated. Some vaccinated people are more vulnerable to the virus than others, though there's no simple way to tell if your body has produced a strong immune response against COVID after getting your shots. But lately, more research has been coming out about how different people may experience varying immune responses depending on a number of factors, and now, a new study has found that one particular factor can increase your antibody levels nearly seven-fold.

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The new study, published July 21 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at the difference in people's immune responses produced by the COVID vaccine, and they found that younger individuals have more antibodies than older people.

The researchers from the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) analyzed 50 participants who were two weeks out from their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. They divided the participants into age groups and then tested their blood serum against both the original coronavirus strain and one variant, Gamma, which originated in Brazil.

According to the study, those in the youngest group—who were all in their 20s—had antibody responses that were nearly seven times stronger than the oldest study group, which was comprised of people between the ages of 70 and 82. The researchers' data showed a clear linear progression of reduced antibody levels from the highest response in the youngest participants to the lowest response in the oldest.

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Marcel Curlin, MD, co-author of the study and an associate professor at the OHSU School of Medicine, explained in a statement that although older people had a diminished antibody response, the current COVID vaccines are still effective among this population. "The vaccine still produces strong immune responses compared with natural infection in most older individuals, even if they are lower than their younger counterparts," Curlin explained. "Vaccination in this group may make the difference between serious and mild disease, and likely reduces the chances of transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to another person."

The highly transmissible Delta variant that's taken over the U.S. could put older individuals at an increased risk, especially when it comes to breakthrough infections. "Our older populations are potentially more susceptible to the variants, even if they are vaccinated," said Fikadu Tafesse, PhD, senior author of the study and an assistant professor of molecular microbiology and immunology a the OHSU School of Medicine.

According to Tafesse and his colleagues, the diminished antibody response that comes with age further emphasizes the need for everyone to get vaccinated, if they can. "The more people get vaccinated, the less the virus circulates," he said. "Older people aren't entirely safe just because they're vaccinated; the people around them really need to be vaccinated as well. At the end of the day, this study really means that everybody needs to be vaccinated to protect the community."

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