RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – New data from South Africa warn the natural antibodies of recovered COVID patients aren’t holding up so well if they contracted the omicron variant.
Scientists are now trying to figure out if vaccines face the same challenge of stopping infection.
“If reports from South Africa would suggest my natural antibodies are not holding up against this variant’s spike and therefore stopping viral entry and stopping viral infection then the extrapolation question that we’re all grappling with is well, hang on if those natural antibodies aren’t binding very well what about the vaccine antibodies that are targeting the same place are they also diminished because of the mutations,” Dr. Cameron Wolfe, Duke University School of Medicine.
The medical community is hoping that in some ways history repeats itself but won’t know for at least several weeks.
“We haven’t really seen a variant yet that has been a serious problem for our vaccines and we’re hoping that there won’t be with omicron. But again because there are so many additional mutations we just have to wait to get those answers” said David Montefiori, Ph.D., Duke University Medical Center.
While early indications that omicron’s symptoms are mostly mild those patients have typically been younger and in the same age bracket as those who don’t typically get very sick.
“It’s only when you get to really analyze a variant like this over many more thousands of infections and look at the way it impacts hospitalizations and look at the way severe cases take place that I think we’ll learn how to address the question of severity,” said Wolfe.
Doctors say the reasons remain evident that people should get vaccinated and boosted whether they’ve had COVID or not.
“In the majority of cases the natural immunity that’s provided by infection is not very strong and in fact what we know is it’s far weaker than the immunity that the vaccines give you,” Montefiori.