Immunologist: Antibodies could provide protection for at least a year

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Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 under an electron microscope. Source: NIAID-RML/(CC BY 2.0)

Antibodies developed after having the coronavirus or getting vaccinated for it can offer protection from being infected again for at least a year and there is not much reason to get tested for antibodies in the meantime, University of Tartu molecular immunologist Pärt Peterson said.

"I do not think people should constantly measure their level of antibodies a year after getting vaccinated. I believe two vaccinations are enough to protect people. There are exceptions, but that is how it will be for the majority," Peterson said on Vikerraadio's news show "Uudis+".

The professor said that the number of antibodies developed after recovering from COVID-19 depends largely on how hard the illness was. The more serious symptoms showed, the more antibodies are developed. There is another side to the coin, however.

"Many elderly people also had the virus more seriously, whose immune system is not as efficient in ensuring protection. We must remember that side, but the coming year will shed more light on it," Peterson added.

There have not been many studies looking at antibodies in the world yet. Using the flu as an analogy, it can be assumed that in addition to the elderly, antibodies might not be as efficient for those with chronic inflammatory comorbidities, such as in people with renal insufficiency. Bodyweight can also be a negative factor.

Women however tend to have more immunity than men. "Comorbidities and age are likely there for the coronavirus as well, because those risk factors affect the disease's progress," Peterson said.

In the long term, Peterson said, people who have already had the coronavirus should also get vaccinated. "They should not be in a rush to get vaccinated, but at some point, when the availability of vaccines improves, it should be considered." According to the professor, it would ensure better protection for the person and would also help with herd immunity.

Peterson noted that the virus can also be spread by people vaccinated for it. If there is enough of the virus in a person's organism, it might be enough to defeat the body's first line of defense and the coronavirus will begin reproducing in the upper respiratory tract.

"There is a theoretical chance that for one or two days, when the person is in contact with others, they might transmit the virus. The immune system can suppress it in a few days and transmission will no longer happen," the immunologist said.

Speaking on vaccines, Peterson said the fact that the vaccines are rather new should not discourage anyone from getting vaccinated. "They have been administered to tens of millions of people. I dare say other vaccines have likely not even been tested among a sample that size," the immunologist said.

He did note however that vaccines can always have side effects and are not 100 percent effective.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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