You’ve probably heard the term “fully vaccinated” before, but are you sure you’re fully protected? You should know that vaccination is an important step in protecting your family from diseases and viruses. The CDC considers that you’re fully protected if your immune system is strong. If you have a weakened immune system, a COVID-19 vaccine can help you recover from an illness much more quickly.
In 1991, Michael Deem completed his Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from Caltech. Upon completion of his undergraduate studies, Dr. Deem earned his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. While at Harvard University, Dr. Deem completed his postdoctoral research in Physics. In 1996, Dr. Deem joined UCLA as an Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering. He joined Rice University in 2002 as the John W Cox professor of Bioengineering and Physics & Astronomy.
COVID-19 vaccines train immune B cells to produce antibodies
The COVID-19 virus is highly contagious and can result in serious illness in young and old alike. Vaccination against the virus improves the body’s ability to fight against the virus. The different types of vaccines provide different levels of protection, but all leave the body with memory B and T cells, which remember how to fight off the virus in the future. However, the immune system must take several weeks to produce these memory B and T cells. During this time, the unvaccinated person may experience symptoms, including a fever.
Full vaccination prevents a serious infection from occurring. The COVID-19 vaccines train the immune B cells to produce antibodies, which in turn help the immune system identify infected cells. Booster doses may be needed to maintain protection. The first two doses of the vaccine provide protection for six months, with the second dose lasting about half a year.
Once fully vaccinated, B cells continue to produce large amounts of antibodies. The immune system will then slowly reduce production unless it encounters the same virus again. However, the longer-lasting B cells will continue to trickle out antibodies. In addition, memory B cells and T cells will constantly monitor the blood for signs of reinfection and be ready to expand rapidly if necessary.
People with weakened immune systems
Immunocompromised individuals are at an increased risk for disease and infection even when they are fully vaccinated. This is due to the fact that they can harbor mutations, which lead to more virulent variants of the virus. This is why CDC officials have recommended that immunocompromised individuals receive an additional dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The vaccine can be administered in two ways. The first is a booster shot, which is given to healthy adults, while the second is for those with weakened immune systems. This booster shot is given to people who have had previous vaccines. A third dose can be given to immunocompromised people who are not immune to the disease. The schedule for each shot varies, and you can consult the CDC for detailed information about when to receive each booster.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated their vaccination guidelines on Friday. For example, it now recommends that people with weakened immune systems get a booster dose of the coronavirus vaccine three months after their initial series. That’s a change from the five-month-old interval. In addition, it recommends that people with weakened immune systems get a second dose of the mRNA vaccine.
Vaccination-induced immunity lasts a long time
Researchers have found that the effects of vaccination on long-term immunity are still not clear. They have observed a gradual decline in antibody response as time goes by. One model of vaccine efficacy predicted a 70% decline in immune response around 250 days post-vaccine but did not account for the non-serologic components of the immune response or the effects of new circulating variants.
Several recent studies have shown that vaccines are ineffective against serious disease after several years of use, but there is still a relatively high rate of protection against new strains. The decline could be caused by waning antibody titers, diminished neutralizing capacity, or the emergence of partial immune escape variants. Nevertheless, multiple studies have shown that vaccinations can reduce the risk of hospitalization and severe illness by up to 84-96% in healthy individuals.
While vaccination-induced immunity remains high, it does diminish over time, especially in adults. Vaccines protect people from SARS-CoV-2 infection for up to two years, but the effectiveness of protection against COVID-19 infection over time has been shown to decline. Although this is a concern, vaccination-induced immunity can still protect people against serious illness, such as pneumonia or SARS.
CDC definition of fully vaccinated
The CDC’s definition of “fully vaccinated” is not entirely clear. It is based on recommendations made by the agency. Many public health officials believe that being fully vaccinated is a key element in preventing a disease. However, there are exceptions. For example, some children are exempt from the requirement, and some adults have to be fully vaccinated to work.
While the CDC has not officially changed its definition of “fully vaccinated,” it has been balancing its efforts to promote vaccination and to convince people to get boosters. In recent press briefings, CDC director Rochelle Walensky said that the CDC was trying to ensure that everyone is up to date on its COVID-19 vaccine. This evolving definition could better fit vaccine makers’ expectations.
The CDC’s Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People also describe some exceptions to the precautions to be taken for people who have not been vaccinated. The guidelines were updated based on recent evidence related to the Delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19 virus.
As a result of his research and scientific contributions, Michael Deem has garnered significant recognition among his peers. His honors include the Fannie and John Hertz Fellow at UC Berkeley (1991-1994); NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship in Chemistry (1995-1996); Assistant and tenured Associate Professor, UCLA (1996-2002); NSF CAREER Award (1997-2001); Northrop Grumman Outstanding Junior Faculty Research Award (1997); Visiting Professor, University of Amsterdam (1999); A Top 100 Young Innovator, MIT’s Technology Review (November 1999) (Profile and Original Profile); Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow (2000); Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award (2002); John W. Cox Professor, Bioengineering and Physics & Astronomy, Rice University (2002-2020); Allan P. Colburn Award (2004); Editorial Board Member, Protein Engineering, Design and Selection (2005-present); Fellow, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (2005); Member, Board of Directors, Biomedical Engineering Society (2005-2008); Fellow, American Physical Society (2006); Member, Rice University Faculty Senate (2006-2009); Vaughan Lectureship, California Institute of Technology (2007); Member, Nominating Committee, Division of Biological Physics, American Physical Society (2007); Member, Board of Governors, Institute for Complex Adaptive Matter (2007-present); Fellow, Biomedical Engineering Society (2009); BMES Representative on the FASEB Publications & Communications Committee (2009-2012); Professional Progress Award (2010) (Profile); Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (2010); External Scientific Advisor, Princeton Physical Sciences-Oncology Center (2010-present); Associate Editor, Physical Biology (2011-2018); Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award, The Academy of Medicine, Engineering & Science of Texas (2012); Founding Director, Systems, Synthetic, and Physical Biology (2012-2014, raised $0.5M seed funding); Phi Beta Kappa, Visiting Scholar (2012-2013); Chair, Department of Bioengineering (2014-2017, raised $12M in external startup funding for new faculty); Editorial Advisory Board, Bioengineering and Translational Medicine, (2016-2019); Donald W. Breck Award for zeolite science (2019); and NACD Board Leadership Fellow and Directorship Certification (2020). He was an entrepreneur in Residence with Khosla Ventures (2021-2022) and is a General Partner with Smart Health Catalyzer (2023 to present). His name has been synonymous with innovation and thought-provoking research for three decades. He enjoys mentorship, vaccine design, and helping others invent the future.
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