Joel Blankson MD, PhD Professor of Medicine Johns Hopkins Medicine

COVID Vaccine May Not Protect Against Virus, But Protects Against Severe Disease Interview with:

Joel Blankson MD, PhD Professor of Medicine Johns Hopkins Medicine

Dr. Blankson

Joel Blankson MD, PhD
Professor of Medicine
Johns Hopkins Medicine  What is the background for this study? 

Response:  We analyzed patients who were fully vaccinated and boosted but developed breakthrough infections during the Omicron surge.  What are the main findings? Are the findings true for all the available SARS vaccines?

Response:   We found that vaccinated participants with breakthrough infection made strong responses to the vaccine strain spike protein but had weaker responses to the Omicron spike protein. In 4 cases we had previously measured participants’ antibody levels after they received the booster dose and before they got infected and again we saw very strong responses to the vaccine strain spike protein. This is different from the alpha variant surge where patients who developed breakthrough infections were found to have suboptimal antibody responses to the vaccine. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: That the vaccine is doing its job and patients are making strong antibody responses to spike protein present in the vaccine. The problem is that the Omicron virus is so different from the original virus that the antibodies don’t recognize the spike protein as well. The good news is that vaccine-elicited T cells do recognize the Omicron spike protein and this is what probably prevents patients with breakthrough infections from developing severe disease. So while the vaccine may not always prevent against infection, it does continue to protect against severe disease. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work? 

Response:  Everyone should still get vaccinated and get booster shots because even if they develop a breakthrough infection, they will likely only have mild symptoms and will not need to be hospitalized.

No disclosures to report. 


SARS-CoV-2 -specific immune responses in boosted vaccine recipients with breakthrough infections during the Omicron variant surge

Bezawit A. Woldemeskel,1 Caroline C. Garliss,1 Tihitina Y. Aytenfisu,1 Trevor S. Johnston,1 Evan J. Beck,3 Arbor G. Dykema,4 Nicole Frumento,1 Desiree A. Wright,1 Andrew H. Yang,4 Alexander I. Damanakis,6 Oliver Laeyendecker,3 Andrea L. Cox,1 Heba H. Mostafa,6 Andrew H. Karaba,1 and Joel N. Blankson1

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Last Updated on April 27, 2022 by Marie Benz MD FAAD