ESWATINI – An exclusive research study from the University of Witwatersrand Vaccines and Infectious Analytics Research (VIDA) has revealed potential benefits of hybrid immunity resulting from prior COVID-19 infection and vaccination against coronavirus variants and subvariants.
The study entitled ‘Population Immunity and COVID-19 Severity with Omicron Variant in South Africa’ comes at a time when a combination of COVID-19 and variants of coronavirus remains a severe threat to global health security and public health.
According to the recent study by University of Witwatersrand Vaccines and Infectious Analytics Research, people who have had both the COVID-19 vaccine and prior exposure to the virus are less likely to get severe, critical or fatal COVID-19.
The study researchers estimated the number of seropositive specifically the people who had antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 within the general population of Gauteng and found out that individuals were 93.1% more likely to be seropositive if they had both the vaccine and prior exposure to COVID-19.
In 2020, VIDA embarked on leading the first two COVID-19 vaccine studies being undertaken on the African continent, and has undertaken multiple epidemiological and immunology studies on COVID-19 in health-care workers, adults and pregnant women.
The research reveals that vaccinating individuals even after they have had the disease ensures that they have higher levels of antibodies for a longer period, noting that it is especially important for diseases such as COVID-19 that result in severe illness and death.
“As a result of hybrid immunity, there were far fewer cases of hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19 during the fourth wave as compared with the proportions seen during earlier waves. The omicron variant resulted in 1 in 100 cases requiring hospitalization while previously it was 1 in 24,” the study says.
The research highlights that the discovery of hybrid COVID-19 immunity signals a hopeful turn in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic while stressing that it is important especially for high risk-groups to get vaccinated as well as get booster doses even if they have previously suffered from COVID-19.
The World Health Organization defines hybrid immunity as the immune protection in individuals who have had one or more doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and experienced at least one SARS-CoV-2 infection before or after the initiation of vaccination.
The study conducted by Wits VIDA states that hybrid immunity, also known as super immunity, has been highlighted as the best way of reducing severe illness and death in people who get infected with the SARS-Cov_2 virus, the virus that causes COVID-19.
The research study author at Wits VIDA Dr Portia Mutevedzi explained that there are two types of immunity namely natural immunity which humans develop through exposure to the infections and vaccine-induced immunity which develops as a result of vaccination.
The Senior epidemiologist further said that hybrid immunity is considered a double layer of protection against COVID-19 while urging the public to stay informed about the unpredictable mutation of COVID-19 as new emerging variants may require people to get booster jabs.
Dr Mutevedzi further reaffirmed that the research proves that vaccination save lives while encouraging high risk-groups to get vaccinated as well as get booster doses as hybrid immunity signals a possible end to the pandemic.
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