Therefore, the elderly get sick despite a full vaccination

  • Despite a complete vaccination, there are corona outbreaks in old people’s homes
  • Does the corona vaccination work differently for older people?
  • New studies provide a possible explanation

Researchers of the Berlin Charity have found an explanation for why there are still corona outbreaks in old people’s and nursing homes despite double vaccinations. The immune systems of old people respond less efficiently to the vaccination than that of younger people, she said Charity on Wednesday (June 9th, 2021) after two studies published in the journal “Emerging Infectious Diseases”.

Researchers find important links between age and vaccination protection

It is therefore particularly important that nursing staff and visitors are immunized. In addition, hygiene measures and tests remained important. In the medium term, a further booster vaccination for older people is an option in order to improve their vaccination protection.

For an investigation, the scientists worked on an outbreak in a Berlin care facility from February. In addition to 11 nurses without complete vaccination protection, around 20 residents were infected with Sars-CoV-2 in the Alpha variant (B 1.1.7). All but four of them were fully vaccinated with the Biontech / Pfizer vaccine. The four unvaccinated became so seriously ill that they had to be treated in a hospital. Only around a third of those vaccinated had symptoms such as coughing or shortness of breath. Two vaccinated residents died loudly Charity, but probably not the cause of Covid-19.

“On the one hand, we can see from this outbreak that the vaccination protected the residents of the nursing home as a whole, because the course of the disease was much milder,” says Victor Corman, deputy head of the consulting laboratory for coronaviruses on Institute for Virology. “At the same time, the increased number of infections makes it clear that the vaccine is sometimes not fully effective in old people.”

Two studies show: Older people produce fewer antibodies

In the second study, the research team compared the immune response to the Biontech / Pfizer vaccine in patients over 70 years of age at a family doctor’s practice with that of Charity-Employees who were on average 34 years old. Blood analyzes showed that just three weeks after the first dose, around 87 percent of the younger ones had developed antibodies against Sars-CoV-2. Among the older it was only around 31 percent.

One month after the second dose, almost all young people vaccinated (99 percent) had specific antibodies in their blood. Among the elderly, it was around 91 percent. In addition, the antibodies matured more slowly in the elderly, so they were less able to bind the virus. The second important arm of the immune response, the T-cell response, was also weaker.

“Our study shows that in older people the immune response is significantly delayed after vaccination and does not reach the level of young vaccinees,” summarizes Leif Erik Sander, vaccine researcher at the Medical clinic with a focus on infectious diseases and pulmonology.

However, the elderly are not the only ones for whom the corona vaccination is less effective. Researchers in Erlangen have found that certain people do not form antibodies against the virus despite being vaccinated.