How coronavirus vaccines still help people who already had COVID-19

Past coronavirus infections offer some protection, but vaccines give the immune system a boost


Experts fear that if the coronavirus has enough time to replicate, it will have enough opportunity to accumulate mutations and that other more dangerous forms may emerge (SN: 7/2/21). Although the immune system is adept at recovering, constantly modifying its antibody arsenal to learn new methods of identifying the virus, even if it mutates (SN: 11/24/20).

An investigation released recently suggests that vaccine-induced antibodies may still identify new variations. People who were immunized had antibodies that had blocked a mutated coronavirus’ spike protein, which included 20 alterations. The spike protein unlocks and infects cells, but antibodies have limited its ability to infect cells, according to researchers who published their findings in August at

Virologists created a mutation of a harmless animal virus in the form of modified coronavirus spikes that aren’t dangerous. This process is said to be effective and should not hurt patients. A new study concluded that a virus with 20 alterations in its genome did successfully reproduce in lab-grown cells, but not as effectively as a form of the virus without those mutations, which points to the conclusion that those abnormalities caused the virus to be weakened.

The researchers concluded their study by seeing how the altered virus was defended against by antibodies that were administered to or gained by those immunized or who recovered. “The big issue,” according to Weisblum of Rockefeller University in New York City, “was, ‘What would it take for this virus to escape immunity?'”

The twenty alterations to the spike protein helped the virus remain resilient to vaccines for vaccinated individuals who had not previously encountered the virus, as well as vaccinations for those who had been infected before but did not get their doses. However, individuals who had been infected and vaccinated had some antibodies that could detect the virus and had learned to better identify their target and therefore would not allow the virus to infect cells.

Schmidt of Rockefeller University comments that even if no major issues have occurred as of now, it is conceivable that such a virus has already been born and may be problematic even for those who have received vaccinations. Beta and delta spike mutations are about 10 in number for most current varieties. The discovery is that individuals who have had extra vaccinations are protected against even more viral mutations.

“Over time, they figure out what to do.” That’s how Weisblum describes antibodies as they develop. Next-generation vaccines may contain minor variants of the virus in order to ensure a robust immune response. She thinks that “the immune system will take care of the rest,” even though they can’t foresee how the virus will evolve in the future.

Moderna COVID-19 vaccines being prepared in syringes, held by a person wearing blue gloves
Even those who have already had COVID-19 benefit from vaccination. Shots like Moderna’s, being prepared here in Immokalee, Fla., for farmworkers and others hit hard in previous waves, give the immune system a boost that can fight off new coronavirus variants, studies suggest.

Categories: Clinical