If You Do This, You May Have Lower Vaccine Antibodies, New Study Says
Having this one habit means your immune response may be weaker.
Effective vaccines work by teaching your body how to fight viral invaders and generating an immune response that creates protective antibodies. But just as people may experience different side effects to their shots, not everyone will see the same level of protection when they're vaccinated. For some, this is the result of medications or medical conditions that make people immunocompromised. But now, a new study has just found that there's one habit that might also lead to lower levels of antibodies being produced when you take the COVID-19 vaccine.
A new study out of Japan that has not yet been peer-reviewed analyzed blood samples from 378 healthcare workers between the ages of 32 and 54 who had received the Pfizer vaccine three months earlier. Researchers initially found that antibody levels were lower in older individuals, which has been found in previous studies. But after adjusting for age, the team found that the only risk factors that led to lower antibodies were being a male with a current smoking habit.
The study's authors speculate that the difference in lower antibodies between biological sexes might be related to the fact that the smoking rate was twice as high among males as females. They also found that former smokers didn't see a similar reduction in antibodies, concluding that "smoking cessation before vaccination may improve the individual efficacy of the [Pfizer] vaccine."
The study's authors cautioned that the preliminary data is not strong enough to draw a solid link between smoking and vaccination. They argued that further research on the topic would be necessary before any solid conclusions could be made about the connection.
But the recent study isn't the first to find a potential correlation between smoking and showing lower antibodies post-vaccine. Another observational study published in April in the journal Diabetes/Metabolism Research and Reviews considered 86 healthcare workers from a hospital in Rome who had received the Pfizer vaccine. Blood samples were taken from each participant before their first dose and again one to four weeks after their second dose had been administered to test antibody responses.
The study found that participants with regular smoking habits had fewer antibodies in their systems than nonsmokers, surprising the research team. "We did not expect smoking to be a risk factor for lower antibody titers, as there is virtually zero available evidence suggesting that smoking is associated with reduced response to vaccines," Mikiko Watanabe, MD, PhD, a specialist in endocrinology and metabolism at Sapienza University in Rome, told Healio.
Besides any potential effect smoking may have on COVID-19 vaccines, being a habitual smoker raises your risks for fighting the virus itself, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The agency warns that "being a current or former cigarette smoker can make you more likely to get severely ill from COVID-19. If you currently smoke, quit. If you used to smoke, don't start again. If you've never smoked, don't start."