COVID-19: Vaccines (Part 2 of 3): Protection by Antibodies is Only Part of the Story
Columbia University Professor Emeritus, Dr. David Figurski
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
(Disclaimer: The World Health Organization <WHO> has officially named the new coronavirus as SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes as COVID-19. Because the majority of people, including much of the press, commonly refer to the virus as “COVID-19,” to avoid confusion, I use COVID-19 as the name of the virus.)
Vaccination against COVID-19 primes your immune system to be ready to use every defense it has to fight the virus. It stimulates the creation of a potent and specific defense tailored to fight the COVID-19 virus.
Vaccination has been shown to be amazingly effective. All three vaccines for COVID-19 that have been used in the US (Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson) are 100% effective in preventing both hospitalization and death.
When people think of vaccination, they usually think only of antibodies. But this ignores the stimulation of an equally potent arm of immune system.
The bottom line is that vaccination (1) stimulates the production of antibodies that bind to the virus to prevent infection and (2) creates and activates “killer” T cells that destroy cells that have been infected.
Because antibodies are only part of the defensive power of your immune system, no one should be worried about variants, despite hysterical articles by a largely ignorant press. We should certainly continue to monitor variants, but there is nothing to be worried about yet. The antibodies are less able to block virus, but they still work. Importantly, the killer T cells are unaffected by any variant.
The T cell response after vaccination against COVID-19 is as potent as the antibody arm of the immune system. Some people cannot make antibodies, yet they do well after infection by COVID-19.
Your immune system is composed of two parts. A first line of defense (Innate Immunity) acts immediately against any foreign substance. It is non-specific. After about a week, a specific and more potent immunity (Adaptive Immunity) has developed. The adaptive arm uses antibodies and T cells.
Vaccination stimulates your adaptive immunity, so the antibodies and T cells are ready before infection.
Scientists don’t yet know how long the anti-COVID-19 antibody levels remain high, but data show that antibodies have remained high for six months so far. You may need to get vaccinated every year, as you do for the flu virus.
The antibody level will eventually go down, but your immune system maintains a few “memory cells” of the antibody-producing cells. These cells make antibody-producing cells immediately after infection. So your immune system is fully armed in 2-3 days.
I strongly urge you to listen to minutes 6:25-22:00 of the interview TWiV 736 <March 28, 2021>of Dr. Alessandro Sette, a world-renowned expert on T cells and COVID-19 from The La Jolla Institute for Immunology, by Dr. Vincent Racaniello, a virologist and expert on COVID-19 from Columbia U. Dr. Sette gives a basic explanation of T cells, the response to COVID-19, and vaccination.
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