What antibodies tell us about covid

(Bloomberg) — For the past two years, the United States has been building a map of our immune system’s history with Covid-19. Every few weeks, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have checked tens of thousands of blood samples for antibodies to the virus.

Those studies, which can detect antibodies caused by the vaccine or by an infection, have helped researchers draw a map of our different pandemic experiences.

The proportion of people with antibodies across the country is similar: most places show that around 90% of the population has molecular signs. That suggests there is widespread exposure and some level of protection against the virus.

But if we look a little closer, differences begin to emerge.

In places like San Francisco, almost all of the antibodies that people have come from vaccines. Deep in the South, where vaccination rates are much lower, the virus itself is the cause of a much higher proportion of antibodies, in some cases reaching 50%.

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How long protection against a previous infection lasts is still under study, but appears to be less durable than vaccines. That means San Francisco and places like it may be better protected against future outbreaks.

But what is not up for debate is that the antibodies to the infection have taken a much higher toll in hospitalizations and lives lost. In this issue of Businessweek (click here) we examine how different parts of the country developed antibodies over time, whether from a vaccine or a virus, and what it cost them in deaths. Places like the San Francisco Bay Area have never reached 100 deaths per 100,000 people. Places with lower levels of vaccination reached that marker quickly and then surpassed it (other parts of the country, particularly those hit hardest before vaccines were available, have a murkier picture).

That kind of data is crucial to understanding not only how we got to this point in the pandemic, but also where it might go next. Since immunity tends to fade over time, months from now different parts of the country will have vastly different types of protection, whether it’s from vaccination, infection, or a combination of the two.

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If a new variant emerges or a new wave of the virus arrives, our defenses are likely to depend on where we live and how much of that protection has faded. A better understanding of it is crucial for a better answer.

Nota Original:

Coronavirus Daily: What Antibodies Tell Us About Covid

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