COPD patients respond equally well to COVID-19 vaccine

COPD patients have a higher risk of developing severe illness and mortality following COVID-19 infection.

As COPD patients are known to have a reduced immune response, doctors feared COVID-19 vaccination might be less effective on them.

The scientists compared the  SARS-COV-2 vaccine- specific immune responses in COPD patients with healthy people, using blood, nasal and airway samples.

Vaccinated individuals, who had never been infected with COVID-19, donated samples more than two weeks after completing two doses of either the Oxford-AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine.

Samples were analysed from 27 vaccinated individuals: 11 with COPD and 16 healthy; and 43 pre-vaccinated individuals:  24 with COPD and 19 healthy.

COVID-19 vaccines work in slightly different ways, but all expose our immune system to the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, which coats the virus particle and is essential for infecting our cells. Immune responses to the vaccine spike protein were analysed, including levels of IgG and IgA antibodies, and T-cell responses.

Both vaccinated COPD patients and healthy individuals had higher anti-spike protein IgG antibody levels in plasma and airways compared to unvaccinated COPD patients and healthy individuals, with the level of vaccine-induced responses being similar in COPD patients and healthy subjects.

Dr Thomas Southworth, Honorary Research Associate at The University of Manchester and Senior Scientist at the Medicines Evaluation Unit Ltd said: “The results of this study will be a great relief for patients with COPD who can rest assured they can derive protection from COVID-19 vaccination, despite an impaired immune system.

“Vaccination did not induce a sustained IgA antibody response in the airways of either COPD patients or healthy subjects. IgA antibodies act to block viral infections as they initially enter our nose and airways.

“Future vaccines, which do induce sustained anti-SARS-COV-2 IgA antibody  responses in the upper airways, may offer additional protection for both COPD patients and healthy individuals equally.”

 ‘Airway immune responses to COVID-19 vaccination in COPD patients and healthy subjects’ is available here

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