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Indian study finds big drop in COVID antibodies within four months of vaccination

Health officials say though they are studying the evolving science on booster doses, the priority is to fully immunise India's 944 million adults.

September 14, 2021 / 03:56 PM IST

A study of 614 fully vaccinated health workers in India found a "significant" drop in their COVID-fighting antibodies within four months of the first shot.

The findings could help the Indian government decide whether to provide booster doses as some Western countries have done.

Waning antibodies do not necessarily mean that immunised people lose their ability to counter the disease, as the body's memory cells may still kick in to offer substantial protection, said the director of a state-run institute that did the study.

"After six months, we should be able to tell you more clearly whether and when a booster would be needed," Sanghamitra Pati of the Regional Medical Research Centre, based in the eastern city of Bhubaneswar, told Reuters on Tuesday.

"And we would urge similar studies in different areas for pan-India data."

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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British researchers said last month that protection offered by two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech and the AstraZeneca vaccines begins to fade within six months.

The Indian study, published in the Research Square pre-print platform but yet to be peer reviewed, is one of the first such done in the country involving its main two vaccines - Covishield, a licensed version of the AstraZeneca shot, and domestically developed Covaxin.

Health officials say though they are studying the evolving science on booster doses, the priority is to fully immunise India's 944 million adults. More than 60% of them have received at least one dose and 19% the required two doses.

COVID cases and deaths in India have come down sharply since a peak of more than 400,000 infections in early May. India has reported 33.29 million cases in total and 443,213 deaths.

Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.
Reuters
first published: Sep 14, 2021 03:55 pm

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