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The omicron variant could give fully vaccinated people ‘super immunity’

Breakthrough infections might give people more immunity to COVID-19

A doctor’s assistant prepares a Comirnaty vaccine from Pfizer against COVID-19.
A doctor’s assistant prepares a syringe with the Comirnaty vaccine from Pfizer against COVID-19 at the pediatric vaccination center in Munich, Germany, Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021.
Lennart Preiss, dpa via Associated Press

Fully vaccinated people infected with the omicron variant of the novel coronavirus could end up with super immunity to the coronavirus, according to new research from Oregon Health & Science University.

  • The research — published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association — found that breakthrough infections of the delta variant created “a robust immune response against the delta variant.”
  • Researchers said the findings indicate that “the immune response is likely to be highly effective against other variants as the SARS-CoV-2 virus continues to mutate.”
  • This suggests the omicron variant could create super immunity. However, little specific research has been done into how the omicron variant could lead to more immunity. Research has shown the omicron variant evades vaccines and natural antibodies.

Experts still advise against getting COVID-19 because of the multiple health effects of the disease. Many COVID-19 patients spend months recovering from the virus. The coronavirus has been linked to severe illness and death.

The study said antibody levels from breakthrough cases were 1,000% more effective than those seen two weeks after the second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

  • “You can’t get a better immune response than this,” said senior author Fikadu Tafesse, an assistant professor of molecular microbiology and immunology in the OHSU School of Medicine, in a statement. “These vaccines are very effective against severe disease. Our study suggests that individuals who are vaccinated and then exposed to a breakthrough infection have super immunity.”

Dr. Marcel Curlin, associate professor of medicine (infectious diseases) in the OHSU School of Medicine, said this is likely the endgame for COVID-19.

  • “I think this speaks to an eventual endgame,” Curlin said. “It doesn’t mean we’re at the end of the pandemic, but it points to where we’re likely to land: Once you’re vaccinated and then exposed to the virus, you’re probably going to be reasonably well-protected from future variants. Our study implies that the long-term outcome is going to be a tapering-off of the severity of the worldwide epidemic.”

There have been reports about how super immunity could stop the next COVID-19 variant from really taking hold of the population, as I wrote for the Deseret News. Multiple research projects have suggested that there are people who have “an extraordinarily powerful immune response,” according to NPR

  • These people — who were infected with COVID-19 and got the vaccine — have enough antibodies “capable of fighting off the coronavirus variants circulating in the world but also likely effective against variants that may emerge in the future,” according to NPR.

The omicron variant is the latest coronavirus variant to spread rapidly through the world. In fact, it has only started to circulate around the United States, becoming the most dominant variant in the U.S. already, according to The Associated Press.