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‘Vaccine ceiling’ could also be approaching for some people, study suggests

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A “vaccine ceiling” could also be approaching for some individuals who have already received three doses, based on latest research, suggesting it might not be vital to maintain getting jabbed against Covid-19 on a rolling basis.

Health officials are currently assessing whether to broaden out the UK’s current booster programme beyond over-75s, care home residents and people with weakened immune systems.

But a latest study led by academics on the University of Southampton suggests there’s a “hint” that some people may need already reached a “ceiling” by way of the quantity of protection that they might acquire from a fourth jab.

Professor Saul Faust, the leading scientist of the CovBoost trial, said this might be depending on the kind of vaccines that a person has already received, prior dosage volumes, and immunity levels built up through vaccination and natural infection.

His study, which assessed the protection levels of greater than 150 people before and after vaccination, found that some individuals with high antibody and T-cell counts “had limited boosting from the fourth dose, indicating that there may very well be a vaccine-specific ceiling effect.”

Some 166 people took part within the study and offered blood samples, which were examined for antibody levels.

These were assessed at various time points, including 28 days after the third jab was given; again just before their fourth boost was administered – which took place, on average, just over 200 days later; after which 14 days after they’d their fourth jab.

For many trial participants, their antibody count waned within the period between a 3rd and fourth dose. But a fortnight after the booster jab, these levels rose to latest heights, or “over and above” what had previously been recorded, said Paul Faust.

Some participants had 12 to 16 times higher levels of antibodies within the blood a fortnight after they got their fourth shot, compared with the day it was delivered.

Boosts were also seen of their T-cell levels, based on the study, which has been published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal.

Nonetheless, the study added, “some participants … maintained high levels of humoral and cellular responses even before the fourth dose and had limited boosting from the fourth dose.”

Prof Faust said: “There’s a touch from among the people within the trial and among the people within the trial who had had Covid … that vaccines might reach a ceiling and that may depend upon the vaccine and the host immunity and the dose, and that’s true for the over-70s and the under-70s.”

A fourth dose may not “boost humoral and cellular responses if the baseline response is high,” the study said.

“These individual data are essential for policy makers as the good thing about a fourth dose may be less in individuals who have already got high levels of immune responses from recent infection or vaccination.”

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The so-called “vaccine-ceiling effect” must be further explored in latest studies, the scientists behind CovBoost wrote.

Prof Faust said the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) was examining his study’s results, together with other research, because it considers whether to broaden out the booster campaign and offer a fourth dose to more of the UK population later within the yr.

As a part of the CovBoost trial, researchers examined data on individuals who had two doses of the AstraZeneca jab, followed by a Pfizer booster, who then received either a Pfizer jab or half dose of a Moderna jab for his or her fourth vaccine.

In addition they checked out individuals who had three doses of Pfizer, followed by a fourth Pfizer shot or a half-dose Moderna jab. No severe side-effects were recorded amongst participants, with some reporting pain or fatigue.

Various groups have been called forward for a spring booster, including people aged 75 and over, care home residents, and people aged 12 and over who’re immunocompromised.

For many this could have been a fourth vaccine dose, but for some with a weakened immune system it’s going to have been their fifth.

Prof Faust, director of the NIHR Southampton Clinical Research Facility, said the outcomes of his study ultimately “underline the advantages of essentially the most vulnerable people receiving current spring boosters and provides confidence for any prospective autumn booster programme within the UK, if the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation considers it needed at the moment.”

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