In-Depth: Study shows mRNA vaccine immunity could last years

Researchers looked at germinal centers
Posted at 9:08 AM, Jul 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-05 12:14:39-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - New research shows mRNA vaccines could offer immunity to COVID-19 for years.

"This is good news for the mRNA vaccines that we're using," says Dr. Ali Ellebedy, the lead author in the study just published in Nature.

Instead of looking at T-cells and antibodies found in blood, like many other studies, Dr. Ellebedy and his team at Washington University in St. Louis focused on the body's Germinal Centers, which create Memory "B" cells. Dr. Ellebedy calls the Germinal Centers "training camps" for B cells.

They found that people who got the mRNA Pfizer or Moderna vaccine had activity in their Germinal Centers four months after getting their second shot. Typically, the Germinal Centers are only active for a few weeks after a vaccine.

The longer the Germinal Center actively creates B Cells, the more of those cells get made. Those B cells can then live in bone marrow for years.

"This is an excellent indication for how durable the vaccine-induced response is," says Dr. Ellebedy.

The Germinal Centers are located in draining lymph nodes found near a person's armpit. Dr. Ellebedy's team joined forces with radiologists from Washington University to extract samples through ultrasound-guided aspiration to study them.

Because of how complicated the procedure is, they only enlisted 14 people in the study.

But, of those 14, all of them showed the same continued activity in the Germinal Centers.

By comparison, Dr. Ellebedy says a similar study of flu vaccines last year found only 3 of 8 participants had prolonged activity in the Germinal Center.

"(Our) number can be small, but the robustness of the immune response induced by this particular vaccine is very heavy," he says.

Because Dr. Ellebedy's team only looked at mRNA vaccines like the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine, he says further study is needed on the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. He also says any emerging variants could impact our body's ability to fight the disease.