COVID-19 booster increases durability of antibody response, research shows

New research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine speaks to the benefits of a COVID-19 booster.

The new findings shed light on how mRNA boosters — both Pfizer and Moderna — affect the durability of our antibodies to COVID-19. A booster, the researchers report, made for longer-lasting antibodies for all recipients, even those who have recovered from a COVID-19 infection.

“These results fit with other recent reports and indicate that booster shots enhance the durability of vaccine-elicited antibodies,” said senior researcher Jeffrey Wilson, MD, PhD, of UVA Health’s Division of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology.

Tracking COVID-19 antibodies

Wilson and his collaborators looked at antibody levels following a booster in 117 UVA employee volunteers and compared those results with the levels seen in 228 volunteers after their primary vaccination series. Antibody levels one week to 31 days after the primary series and booster were similar, but the boosted antibodies stuck around longer regardless of whether the person had had COVID-19.

“Our initial thought was that that boosters would lead to higher antibody levels than the primary vaccine series, but that was not what we found,” said researcher Samuel Ailsworth, the first author of a new scientific paper outlining the findings. “Instead, we found that the booster led to longer lasting antibodies.”

Antibody levels naturally decline over time after an infection or after vaccination, but higher levels are thought to be more protective. Thus, longer-lasting antibodies would be expected to provide more sustained immunity against severe COVID-19.

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