Vaccines’ capacity to protect us from contracting the Covid virus has been severely harmed as a result of the substantially mutated Omicron strain.
Some vaccinations provide essentially no protection against an Omicron infection after two doses, but they should considerably reduce the risk of becoming unwell enough to require hospitalization.
All of the vaccines were created to combat the virus’s original form, which appeared two years ago.
So, will a third or “booster” dose of those original immunizations make a difference, or has Omicron already outwitted their protection? Fortunately for us, a booster is not just more of the same for the immune system, even if the contents of the syringe may be same.
After the third dose, the protection you have is stronger, broader, and more memorable than before.
Your immune system must learn how to fight the coronavirus.
One alternative is to figure it out on the job once you’ve been exposed to the virus. However, there is a chance that you will make a mistake and become very ill as a result.
Vaccines are more like a school, providing a secure atmosphere in which your immune system may continue its Covid education. The first dose is primary school education, which establishes the foundations.
Your immune system’s second and third doses are akin to sending it to secondary school and then university to further its education. It’s not just going through the motions of primary school.
Prof Jonathan Ball, a virologist at the University of Nottingham, said, “The immune system now has a greater knowledge and comprehension of the virus.
” Despite all of Omicron’s nefarious schemes, he claims that a well-trained immune system is “an exceedingly tough and unfriendly environment” for the virus and its derivatives.
Antibodies are one of the main beneficiaries of this training.
These are the coronavirus’s sticky proteins that cling to the exterior of the virus. Neutralizing antibodies can clog the virus’s pores, preventing it from invading your cells.
Others sit there like a blazing neon sign that says “destroy this infection” in biological terms.
A slew of laboratory experiments and real-world data revealed that the neutralizing antibodies you get after two Covid vaccination doses were ineffective against Omicron.
Prof Danny Altmann of Imperial College London, an immunologist, said you were left with “absolutely nothing” and were a “sitting duck for infection.”
Each vaccination dose initiates a new wave of antibody evolution within the immune system. It looks for better antibodies that can cling to the virus more securely.
Affinity maturation is the term for this process. “As time goes on, your antibodies are growing finer and more clever,” Prof Altmann explained. If the antibodies can connect to the coronavirus more tightly, Omicron’s mutations will have a harder time wriggling free.
While the new strain has been substantially modified, it is still the same basic virus with no sections that have altered.
As the immune system discovers new ways to assault the virus with each round of vaccination, the immune system’s antibody repertoire expands.
It’s not only about the quality of antibodies; boosting also increases the amount. “As you get more of them, the concentration in the blood grows,” Imperial’s Prof Charles Bangham explained.
“We don’t know how long this will stay, but the more times you’re vaccinated, the longer-lasting the immune memory is.”
The effects of all of this may be seen in the same trials, which revealed that two doses were less effective against Omicron. After the booster, the protection against experiencing any Covid symptoms increased to roughly 75%.
Boosting also gives our bodies an advantage against subsequent mutations elsewhere in the immune system. B-cells are the cells in the body that create large amounts of antibodies.
After boosting, some develop to form those super-sticky, highly honed antibodies. Others can detect coronavirus but are still naive and adaptable.
Prof Ball explained, “These can travel in many directions and when they proliferate, they start going after the new type.” Then there are T-cells, which, in response to boosting, grow more numerous and better at combating Covid viruses.
T-cells adopt a different strategy to detect the virus, patrolling our bodies for any signs of Covid infection. T-cells recognize coronavirus sections that are more difficult for the virus to change.
While Omicron squirms away from our immune system, each vaccination dose, and indeed each infection, provides our bodies’ defenses with additional weapons to track it down.
All of this points to vaccines as a viable means of preventing major illness. “Immunity against a virus is almost never absolute – you can nearly always get re-infected, and what you want is a re-infection that is so minor that you don’t even realize you’ve got it or is extremely mild,” Prof Bangham explained.
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