After all the upheaval and distress of the Covid-19 pandemic, we all want to be reassured that we have sufficient immunity to the virus to get back to living as normal a life as possible. We know Covid vaccinations are vital, but how long does vaccine immunity last?
‘Vaccination’ and ‘antibodies’ have become hot topics lately. Questions like “is natural immunity from having Covid as good as the vaccine?” and “does having Covid antibodies mean immunity?” are being asked a lot, as people look for information on the best ways to stay up to date with the latest measures against Covid.
At YorkTest, we’ve conducted scientific research into levels of Covid antibodies at key stages. We carried out the first study of Covid-19 antibody levels using home testing kits (our Covid-19 Immunity Tracker Test). The initial results of our ongoing study shows that antibodies increased, on average, 4,500% between the first and second doses of the Covid vaccine. But why are antibodies important, and will antibodies help with Covid?
Read on for more information about the latest information on Covid antibodies and the results of our Covid-19 antibody study…
What are Covid antibodies?
An antibody is a protein present in your blood that is created in response to a particular substance – in this case, the Covid-19 virus (the spike protein, to be exact). Once your body has identified the presence of a foreign substance (this can be viruses like Covid-19 or other bacteria or other alien substances), your antibodies bind on to it. They help your immune system and body’s defence find and destroy the harmful pathogen. This system is known as the ‘adaptive’ immune system, which reacts to get rid of any dangerous substances.
Why are antibodies important?
Antibodies are crucial in responding to a viral infection. Once you’ve developed antibodies for a specific antigen, they will help protect you from suffering illness or major symptoms in the case of re-infection.
In the case of Covid-19, the detection of is proving vital in understanding how many people are likely to have Covid immunity, as well as understanding more about how this novel virus spreads and mutates. Antibody studies have also been important in discovering and developing treatments and other therapies to help those who are infected with the virus.
What level of antibodies do people have after the Covid vaccine?
Our study found that on average, people who had received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine (either the Oxford AstraZeneca or the Pfizer BioNTech vaccines) had antibody levels 4,500% higher than those who had only had a single dose. Being double-vaccinated offers by far the highest level of antibodies – though interestingly trial participants who had not been vaccinated, but had recovered from a bout of Covid, had higher levels of antibodies in their system than those who had a single vaccine dose. Nevertheless, the figures clearly show that receiving both Covid vaccination doses provides the greatest antibody response.
How long do Covid antibodies last?
Because Covid-19 is a novel virus, the scientific community is still working to understand it fully – with studies like YorkTest’s immunity research providing crucial information. The BMJ has reported on studies that found that people who had recovered from Covid-19 (with both mild and severe cases) still had antibodies in their system around five months later.
The BMJ has defined a high level of Covid-19 antibody protection as being above 250 U/ml. Our study found that the average level of antibodies was 997 U/ml up to 100 days after receiving the second dose. This then increased by 25% up to an average of 1,242 U/ml between day 100 and 171, suggesting peak antibody protection three to six months after the second dose of a vaccine. As our trial continues we are starting to see these levels tail off as time passes after the second dose.
When should you get a Covid booster jab?
Official guidance from the JCVI has suggested that a booster jab is recommended to be offered six months after a second dose, with initial eligible groups including those over 50, those with certain health conditions and frontline/health workers. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are recommended.
Are Covid antibodies better than the vaccine?
Because Covid-19 is novel and is still a new virus, the scientific community is still working to understand the impact of the disease on the body. As we know, some people may have only mild symptoms with an infection, whereas for others the virus can, sadly, be extremely severe – causing long-term symptoms, exacerbating other conditions and even leading to death.
For this reason, having two doses of a Covid vaccine is advised for a high level of protection against the virus. Our limited trial participant data showed that people who have received both doses of a vaccine and recovered from Covid-19 itself have the highest virus antibody levels – over 2,500 U/ml. This shows that being vaccinated even after having Covid-19 can protect you even further than simply being exposed to the virus and relying solely on the body’s natural defences.
Commenting on the findings of YorkTest’s Covid-19 study, Dr Gill Hart, scientific director at YorkTest, said: “This may have been a relatively small trial but the results are conclusive. Put simply, the most important thing for public health is to ensure that as many people as possible have two vaccinations. But, it’s important to remember that isn’t necessarily the end of the story.
“Although results of our initial trials show that immunity is reaching its highest point three – six months after a second vaccine dose, there is some suggestion that antibody levels may start to decrease from that point. People need to be mindful of their own antibody levels so they can make informed decisions about their day-to-day lives.”
Is there an antibodies test for Covid?
You can find out your Covid antibody levels using an antibody test – such as YorkTest’s Covid-19 Immunity Tracker Test, specifically designed to provide crucial information for combatting the coronavirus.
YorkTest’s Covid-19 antibody test is quick and simple to take right in your own home, and provides extremely accurate (99%) results for antibody testing. The test should be taken at least 14 days after any coronavirus symptoms started, and if you’ve been vaccinated it’s recommended that you wait at least 21 days before testing for antibodies.
After sending off your finger-prick blood sample to our accredited laboratory partner, we’ll provide your test results on our Wellness Hubl. The results will state whether your sample was positive or negative for Covid-19 antibodies, and will provide a numerical value for the reading that is simple to understand.
Learn more about YorkTest’s at-home Covid-19 Immunity Tracker Test.
Note: The study of 46 participants used the Covid-19 Immunity Tracker Test, which is a 99% accurate, MHRA (UK Government) approved test for antibodies to the Covid-19 spike protein, which can be done in your own home.