VERIFIERS WITH INSERM – A message received by the editorial staff of LCI.fr worries about the possible danger of a vaccine against Covid-19 for people already infected. We are responding with Béhazine Combadière, research director at Inserm.
– Felicia Sideris
Anxious to fight against false information on a daily basis, the Verifiers team has forged a partnership with the National Institute for Health and Medical Research (Inserm). Objective: to interview the most seasoned researchers and answer the questions Internet users have about the coronavirus and vaccination. In this first episode, we deal with Emmanuelle’s question, sent to the dedicated email address [email protected].
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She wonders about the delay before getting vaccinated for a person who has already had the virus. And on the possibility of a vaccine “dangerous” for an asymptomatic who is unaware of having contracted the disease.
Can’t get vaccinated if you’ve caught Covid-19?
Since the start of the epidemic, more than three million people have contracted Covid-19 and have recovered from it. A number that will double according to the latest calculations by the Institut Pasteur, for whom 17% of the population in metropolitan France has contracted the disease. So many people who therefore do not a priori need to receive one of the precious doses. “From an immunological point of view, it does not seem to me that the vaccination of people who have already contracted the virus is a priority”, confirms Béhazine Combadière, research director at Inserm. It is in this spirit that the Haute Autorité de Santé (HAS) published a first opinion on the issue on December 18. Observing that the data did not allow “to know if there is any benefit in vaccinating people who have already been infected”, the public authority considered that there was “no need to systematically vaccinate people who have already developed a symptomatic form of Covid-19”. However, the administration backed down. And she now recommends a single dose, taken after three months.
Why this delay, which worries the Internet user who contacted us? “This is the time for the immune memory to be put in place”, answers the expert from INSEE. “It takes a while to create this memory and we consider, through observation of viruses in general, that this time frame is three months.” Reason why people who have tested positive are “considered to be protected for at least three months by post-infectious immunity”, writes the HAS.
This delay is therefore not linked to a potential dangerous character. “It is absolutely not contraindicated to be vaccinated after contamination”, repeats the researcher at the center of immunology and infectious diseases, “even if we have just had it or if we have had asymptomatic forms”. At LCI.fr, she explains in fact that an immune response cannot be harmful. “Once the body sees the virus, and has a response, the vaccine just revives the immune system by pumping the virus back to it.”
Why a three-month delay?
If it’s not dangerous, why stick to this three-month deadline? Quite simply because France does not have enough supplies. “For the healthy population which has already had the virus, given the current situation of a lack of doses, there is no urgent need to be vaccinated”, summarizes the researcher.
However, there is a downside. The long-term immunity of those previously infected is not known. “The immune responses after infection are variable and more or less important. We must be sure to achieve good levels of immunity”, underlines the research director. Reason why, after having estimated last December that there was “no need to systematically vaccinate” This public, the Haute Autorité de Santé has changed its recommendations.
Can we therefore combine “natural” protection with that of the vaccine? “Absolutely”, answers our interlocutor. The single dose of vaccine will simply act as a booster. “It is the same principle as the recall every ten years”, she advances, pedagogically. “The immune system is asked to remember how it fights the virus. It’s good for immune memory.” And to take a very ordinary example: “It’s like looking at a photo at regular intervals, to make sure the memory of the moment stays intact.”
Do you want to ask us questions or provide us with information that you think is unreliable? Do not hesitate to write to us at [email protected]
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