Scared Covid-19 Immunity Won’t Last? Don’t Be!

Scared Covid-19 Immunity Won’t Last? Don’t Be!

We curated this Opinion piece titled “Scared That Covid-19 Immunity Won’t Last? Don’t Be” from the New York Times. It was written by Drs. Akiko Iwasaki and Ruslan Medzhitov, professors of immunobiology at Yale.

Within the last couple of months, several scientific studies have come out — some peer-reviewed, others not — indicating that the antibody response of people infected with SARS-CoV-2 dropped significantly within two months. The news has sparked fears that the very immunity of patients with Covid-19 may be waning fast — dampening hopes for the development of an effective and durable vaccine.

But these concerns are confused and mistaken.

Both our bodies’ natural immunity and immunity acquired through vaccination serve the same function, which is to inhibit a virus and prevent it from causing a disease. But they don’t always work quite the same way.

And so a finding that naturally occurring antibodies in some Covid-19 patients are fading doesn’t actually mean very much for the likely efficacy of vaccines under development. Science, in this case, can be more effective than nature.

The human immune system has evolved to serve two functions: expediency and precision. Hence, we have two types of immunity: innate immunity, which jumps into action within hours, sometimes just minutes, of an infection; and adaptive immunity, which develops over days and weeks.

Almost all the cells in the human body can detect a viral infection, and when they do, they call on our white blood cells to deploy a defensive response against the infectious agent.

When our innate immune response is successful at containing that pathogen, the infection is resolved quickly and, generally, without many symptoms. In the case of more sustained infections, though, it’s our adaptive immune system that kicks in to offer us protection.

The adaptive immune system consists of two types of white blood cells, called T and B cells, that detect molecular details specific to the virus and, based on that, mount a targeted response to it.

A virus causes disease by entering cells in the human body and hijacking their genetic machinery so as to reproduce itself again and again: It turns its hosts into viral factories…

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