By Kathleen Berger, Executive Producer for Science and Technology
New research from the University of Missouri School of Medicine on the efficacy and longevity of COVID-19 vaccines is underway.
“Are there differences in the vaccine? Are there differences in how well you’re protected, given the distance from the time that you were vaccinated,” said Mark Daniels, PhD, associate professor of surgery and molecular microbiology and immunology.
As principal investigator, Daniels is closely following the immune response in about 600 vaccinated and partially vaccinated study participants for a period of one year. His research team is analyzing the presence of antibodies in participants’ blood with repeat blood samples to see how the immune response changes over time.
“To actually get blood and follow patients from the time they were vaccinated over one year’s time,” he said. “And we’re looking at how strong of an immune response they have. We’re looking at how long their immune response lasts. And we’re looking at various aspects of immunity. Antibodies is very common and most people understand that, but we’re also looking at long term memory of lymphocytes, white blood cells, and how well did they respond? And how much of this will last over time, which is very important for us to understand about how efficient the vaccine is.”
Daniels wants to see how long protection lasts and how vaccination immunity differs from the immunity from natural infection. He also wants to see how vaccine effectiveness and immune responses differ between demographics, such as gender, age, socio-economic factors, preexisting conditions and health issues.
“We see a huge variability from patient to patient,” Daniels explained. “And one of the things that’s difficult, especially given what we know about the virus and know about the people, is there’s not a magic number that anybody has determined that if your immune response in measurable parameters equals some number, that means you’re protected.”
Daniels hopes the study can lead to a test that can accurately determine if an individual has antibody protection. And he said the research will help answer nagging questions about vaccines.
“Contributing to this effort to find out, what do we really need to do? Do we need to have a booster? Do we need to design a more diverse vaccine or a better vaccine?”