© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis greets children as he conducts an audience to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Bambino Gesu Children’s Hospital in Rome, in the Paul VI Hall of the Vatican, on November 16, 2019. Vatican Media via REUTERS
By Emilio Parodi
MILAN (Reuters) – COVID-19 vaccines are less effective in people with weakened immune systems, three small Italian studies show, which study researchers say highlight the need for booster shots for this vulnerable group of people.
Studies show that, on average, 30% of immunosuppressed patients do not develop immunity to the virus after vaccination.
The remaining 70% respond to the vaccine, especially after the second dose, but to a lesser extent than healthy people and with group-to-group differences, said the Bambino Gesu Hospital in Rome, which conducted the three small studies, in a statement on Monday.
The studies were conducted among a group of 21 patients with primary immunodeficiency disease, 34 children and young adults who underwent heart and lung transplants, and 45 young people with liver and kidney transplants.
The results indicate the need to increase the level of protection of the most vulnerable with booster doses, the hospital said.
“The results of our studies show that it is essential to protect the most fragile categories by administering the third dose of vaccine, calibrating the doses or resorting to new formulations of adjuvanted vaccines capable of enhancing the immune response to the virus and maintaining it over time,” said the Professor Paolo Palma, head of clinical immunology and vaccinology at the Bambino Gesu.
The findings come as the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is expected to announce its decision later Monday on whether to recommend a third dose of the vaccine.
There is no consensus among scientists on the extent to which the boosters should be deployed. The United States, Britain and Israel have launched booster programs, but only Israel is administering additional injections to the entire population.
The serological response to the vaccine, which indicates the amount of antibodies present in the blood, and the cellular response (the presence of SARS-CoV-2 specific T lymphocytes) were analyzed in all three studies.
The data were then compared with those of the control groups of healthy people who received the COVID vaccine during the same period.
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