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Our body's immune response weakens with age

New research from Oregon Health & Science University suggests that older people have less antibodies to fight COVID-19. The scientists measured the immune response of fifty people two weeks after their second dose of COVID-19 vaccination.

Among test groups, people in their twenties had about seven times the response to vaccination compared to people between 72 and 80 years of age. The lab results produced a clear pattern – the younger a participant, the stronger the antibody response.

Study senior author Dr. Fikadu Tafesse is an assistant professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology in the OHSU School of Medicine.

“Our older populations are potentially more susceptible to the variants even if they are vaccinated,” said Dr. Tafesse.

The researchers stress that even though there is less of an immune response in older people to the COVID vaccine, it is usually still enough to be effective. 

Older people are more susceptible to coronavirus variants than younger people, making the situation even more dangerous. 

There is a solution, scientists say. Vaccination, they point out, is key to ending the pandemic. Although seniors are less protected by the vaccine, vaccination can stop the spread of the virus, thus protecting everyone, older and younger. 

“The vaccine still produces strong immune responses compared with natural infection in most older individuals, even if they are lower than their younger counterparts,” said study co-author Dr. Marcel Curlin.

“Vaccination in this group may make the difference between serious and mild disease, and likely reduces the chances of transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to another person.”

“The good news is that our vaccines are really strong,” noted Dr. Tafesse.

Even if an older person contracts COVID-19 after being vaccinated, the vaccine provides some protection and can be the difference between mild symptoms and something much more serious. 

The study is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

By Zach Fitzner, Staff Writer

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