Preliminary data from UPMC provide insights into how the COVID-19 vaccine works in two populations, the elderly and certain cancer patients, who are at increased risk of being infected with the coronavirus. The first vaccine study needed more research as it did not specialize or include different populations.
Older people tend to have a weaker immune response to some vaccines. To better understand the effectiveness of the COVID vaccine within this group, UPMC states that blood samples were collected from 70 caregivers weeks after vaccination.
Researchers found that all residents produced antibodies that protected against the coronavirus, but different study participants had different levels of antibodies.
“There is an antibody response to the vaccine, but I don’t know how good it is. How well does it protect vulnerable adults? Or how long does this antibody response last?” UPMC’s 30 Dr. David Nace, Chief Medical Officer of UPMC in the Senior Community, said.
In some long-term care facilities, it takes time to relax the coronavirus restrictions. The facility still needs to monitor resident COVID symptoms, but it may be time to carefully increase individual freedom, such as allowing indoor visits with guests.
“How big is the problem? How many visitors can enter at one time? Where? [can] Those people can enter the facility … they are moving away in the cafeteria, “said Nace, who is also the president of the Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medical Association.
For cancer patients, researchers at the Hillman Cancer Center at UPMC collected blood samples from 67 people vaccinated against blood cancer. Over half of the patients produced coronavirus antibodies.
“Our findings in these patients are not necessarily surprising, as we know that these patients have a weak immune system,” said Dr. Ghady Haider.
Like Nace’s study, Hillman’s data has not yet been peer-reviewed. But Haider said the finding should be taken seriously.
“We need to warn the world that cancer patients may not respond to the vaccine like any other vaccine,” Haider said. “I don’t want these patients to pay attention to the wind and not mask or socially distance them.”
Heider said cancer patients should still be vaccinated and could protect people who do not produce antibodies.
“Antibodies aren’t the only thing in our immune system,” says Haider.
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