What You Should Know About ‘Hybrid Immunity’ And COVID-19

A study published in Nature in June concluded that people who get vaccinated after being infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) should have long-lasting protection not only against the strain with which they were infected, but other variants, as well.

A preprint published last month (via bioRxiv) reinforced these findings. The study analyzed the antibodies of 14 people who received the vaccine in 2021 after recovering from the virus in 2020. These antibodies were capable of neutralizing all of the variants of concern that were tested. Virologist Theodora Hatziioannou of Rockefeller University told NPR that these people’s antibodies were even able to neutralize SARS-CoV-1, which “is very, very different from SARS-CoV-2.”

Even more promising is that these people’s antibodies even deactivated a virus deliberately engineered to resist neutralization with 20 different mutations known to evade SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. Meanwhile, the antibodies of vaccinated people with no prior infections and unvaccinated people with a previous infection were no match for this mutant virus.

Another study published in The New England Journal of Medicine discovered that people who were vaccinated against COVID-19 in 2021 after having SARS-CoV-1 back in 2002 or 2003 also have high levels of antibodies capable of neutralizing many different variants and viruses related to SARS.

Virologist Paul Bieniasz tells NPR that all of these findings offer hope that vaccines combined with our immune systems will eventually beat out the virus on a widespread scale, rendering it relatively harmless.


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