There is a substantial gap in the amount of antibodies that messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) and inactivated virus vaccines can generate against the virus that causes COVID-19, said a Hong Kong study, in the latest finding on what might have contributed to varied outcomes following mass vaccination programs.
The research, published in The Lancet on Thursday, found that antibody levels among Hong Kong health workers who have been fully vaccinated with BioNTech’s mRNA shot are about 10 times higher than those observed in the recipients of the inactivated virus vaccine from Sinovac Biotech.
While disease-fighting antibodies do not account for the full picture when it comes to measuring the ability to generate immunity and the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, “the difference in concentrations of neutralizing antibodies identified in our study could translate into substantial differences in vaccine effectiveness,” the researchers said.
The finding adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting the superiority of mRNA vaccines in providing protection against SARS-CoV-2 and its variants, compared with vaccines developed by more traditional methods such as using inactivated viruses.
Countries from Israel to the US that have relied mostly on mRNA vaccines have seen a marked reduction in infections. Those using mostly the inactivated virus shots from China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm have not experienced as much of a dent in case numbers.
The lower effectiveness of inactivated virus vaccines has prompted countries from Thailand to the United Arab Emirates to offer fully vaccinated people another booster shot as the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant spreads.
The Hong Kong study also suggested that research could investigate how booster shots can shore up antibody levels and protection among people vaccinated with inactivated virus shots.
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