Obese people make half the number of antibodies to fight COVID-19 as individuals within a normal weight range. That is the result of new research by Italian scientists who found that slim people had a greater immune response to the Pfizer vaccine than their obese counterparts.
According to The Sun, the study conducted at the Istituti Fisioterapici Ospitalieri in Rome, tested 248 healthcare workers seven days after receiving their second dose of the vaccine. Study participants with a normal BMI range had an antibody concentration of 325.8 compared to 167.1 in obese people.
“The constant state of low-grade inflammation, present in overweight people, can weaken some immune responses, including those launched by T cells, which can directly kill infected cells,” said the researchers, according to The Sun.
During the Pfizer clinical trials, however, it was found that the vaccine did have a 95% efficacy in preventing COVID-19 even in obese people. The Italian researchers noted that since people who are overweight are at increased risk for complications from the virus, vaccination for this group is still “a critical issue,” according to The Sun. They also recommended that obese people get an extra dose of the vaccine, just to be sure they are protected.
According to Forbes, statistically, obesity is the most common risk factor for severe COVID-19 disease with over 30% of the population affected. Obesity causes several health issues that predispose people to COVID-19 complications. One of fat’s most powerful effects is suppressing the immune system’s response to the virus.
According to The New York Times, the immune cells of an overweight 30-year-old resemble those of an 80-year-old person. Excess fat not only affects the immune system, it also compresses the lungs, making it harder for people to breathe. The blood from an obese person is more prone to clotting, according to the Times, stripping the tissues of oxygen.
While these medical issues play critical roles in fighting COVID-19, healthcare experts have been concerned about they will also affect vaccine response. The current study sheds light on the effect obesity has on vaccine efficacy.
“It confirms that having a vaccinated population isn’t synonymous with having an immune population, especially in a country with high obesity,” said professor Danny Altmann, an immunologist at Imperial College London. “This emphasizes the need for long-term monitoring programs.”
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