Breaking! COVID-19 Vaccine: Experts From Imperial College London And University College London Say That COVID-19 Vaccine Might Not Be Effective For The Elderly
: Medical experts from UK are saying that a vaccine against COVID-19 may not be as effective in older people who are most at risk of suffering complications and dying from the disease.
A better approach they say is to immunize those around the elderly to better help them and also protect them from getting infected those close to them or are in constant with them.
Presenting at the House of Lords science and technology committee in London, the researchers said targeting different groups in the population with vaccines should be more closely studied as the world races to develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus.
Professor Dr Peter Openshaw, a mucosal immunologist and respiratory physician, working on lung infections (esp. RSV and influenza) at Imperial College London said at the committee hearing earlier this week, “Sometimes it is possible to protect a vulnerable group by targeting another group and this, for example, is being done with influenza. In the past few years, the U.K. has been at the forefront of rolling out the live attenuated vaccine for children.”
Professor Dr Openshaw said administering the seasonal nasal spray flu vaccine to children who do not often get severe influenza helps protect their grandparents, for example.
He added that the same approach could be said for COVID-19 vaccine.
Experts are saying that a COVID-19 vaccine may not work on the elderly because their immune systems are “not as robust” as those of younger people.
If one is immunocompromised or if there is any way one’s immune system is weaker than it should be, then the body might not have the ability to adequately respond to the vaccine, the said.
In the case of the seasonal influenza shot, the elderly are typically given a larger dose of the flu vaccine so their immune systems have a better chance of recognizing and responding to the vaccine.
However, there are still a lot of unknowns in regards to a COVID-19 vaccine.
No one knows if any of the vaccines being developed are going to be effective. Also no one knows whether the key antibodies and the neutralizing antibodies are going to be effective against the virus.
However if one is to assume that there is going to be an effective vaccine for healthy adults and presume that healthy adults take the vaccine, there is still the potential that the vaccine my not prompt a response in the elderly.
Although some of the COVID-19 vaccine candidates are showing promising results, U.K. scientists said more research needs to be done to understand what goes wrong with the immune system as people get older that makes them more susceptible to communicable diseases.
Dr Arne Akbar, professor of immunology at University College London and president of the British Society of Immunology, said at the hearing that a better understand of an aging immune system is not just important for COVID-19, but for other diseases as well.
Dr Akbar said “One thing that is apparent, even in healthy older people, is that there is more inflammation all around the body. We need to understand where that inflammation is coming from.
And this baseline inflammation in older people is linked to frailty and many negative outcomes as we get older. And this seems to be exacerbated when you get a severe infection like COVID-19.”
He stressed, “But what is the source of the inflammation in the first place? That’s something that we really need to get to grips with.”
In order for a COVID-19 vaccine to work in older people, they may need a higher dosage of the vaccine, require additional booster shots every couple months or have to use it in combination with another treatment.
However it is unclear who will be the first to get the vaccines, but the ones most at risk of getting infected would likely be inoculated first, according to the British experts and that means front line healthcare workers, other first responders and the elderly could be among the first.
But given that older people’s immune systems are weaker, it may be more effective to vaccinate everyone who may come into contact with the elderly.
The experts said, “What can be done is to immediately create a protective zone around older people… Make sure that people working in long-term care facilities are immediately vaccinated so that you’re protecting those older people. And then families that have older people that they’re caring for or visiting regularly.”
Though this could help protect the elderly, it will only be successful if the vaccine is effective.
The British experts stressed, “We have to be confident that we have a vaccine that is 100 per cent effective so you can build that wall of immunity. Until we know what’s going on with the vaccine and how effective it is, we don’t know for sure how it will impact the elderly.”
So far of those vaccines that are moving towards human trials, none are using older people in their research because of the potential risks.
It is not yet known what level of immune response will be required to protect humans against COVID-19, but developing vaccines to fight the virus is still important.
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