A subset of healthcare workers vaccinated against COVID-19 had unexpectedly low responses to immunizations, according to the Cedars-Sinai researchers. The findings of the new study are published in science, a cell press daily.
In a matched-control study, researchers compared responses to the vaccine among a group of Cedars-Sinai health care workers who were in generally good health. Study participants received the BNT162b2 vaccine produced by Pfizer Inc. and their average age was 48 years.
“It turns out that a small percentage of the population of healthcare workers we studied did not have a robust response to the BNT162b2 vaccine. After vaccination, they produced lower levels of antibodies against the spike protein found on the surface of SARS- CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. That low response persisted even after receiving the second and third booster doses,” said Peter Chen, MD, who holds the Medallion Chair in Molecular Medicine at Cedars-Sinai and is one of the lead authors of the study.
The researchers noted that the “low responders” in the study were relatively young, but their immune systems reacted to the vaccine as if they were much older.
The poor responders had lymphocytes, white blood cells that are part of the immune system, with characteristics more typically seen in older people or people with chronic illnesses. We know that older people also tend to have weaker responses to vaccines, so our data suggest that this subset of healthcare workers might have immune cells that had aged prematurely and were therefore less responsive to vaccination.” .
Helen Goodridge, PhD, study co-senior author, professor of biomedical sciences and research scientist at the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Institute for Regenerative Medicine
This study is part of the ongoing Coronavirus Risk Associations and Longitudinal Assessment (CORALE) project led by Cedars-Sinai. The researchers say this study’s finding of a low response to the vaccine among healthy people requires further investigation.
“We would like to study the pathways that led to the premature aging phenotype to determine if it is specifically responsible for the lower antibody levels after vaccination and then try to develop a therapeutic intervention to reverse this effect,” said Susan Cheng, MD, MPH, the Erika J. Glazer Chair in Women’s Cardiovascular Health and Population Sciences, and corresponding author of the study.
“In addition, our study did not evaluate lymphocytes that are responsible for killing cells that are already infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus; this is an important element of immunity against COVID-19,” said Cheng, who is also a director. from the Institute for Research on Healthy Aging in the Department of Cardiology at the Smidt Heart Institute.
The researchers emphasize that while some people’s immune systems have a low antibody response to the vaccine, the evidence remains strong that vaccination is a highly effective tool for preventing serious illness and death from COVID-19.
“We should all get vaccinated because the BNT162b2 vaccine we studied still provided some immunity in most low responders. This group still had memory cells that can generate more antibodies when attacked by the virus, albeit at a lower level.” Chen said. , director of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Cedars-Sinai.