Clinical Study Shows Strong Immune Response To Pfizer Vaccine Across New Zealanders

A clinical study investigating immune responses to the
Pfizer vaccine in New Zealanders at risk for COVID-19
disease has provided reassuring results says Dr Fran Priddy,
the Executive Director of Vaccine Alliance Aotearoa New
Zealand – Ohu Kaupare Huaketo (VAANZ).

The study, Ka
Mātau, Ka Ora (from knowledge comes wellbeing) – the
largest evaluation of COVID-19 vaccine immune responses in
Māori and Pasifika – showed near universal strong immune
responses in New Zealand vaccine recipients, after two

“The results are reassuring given the study
represented some of those New Zealanders most at risk for
COVID disease – older adults, Māori, Pacific peoples, and
those with co-morbidities like diabetes, obesity or heart
disease,” says Dr Priddy. She notes it did not evaluate
immunocompromised people.

“These results can give
confidence to everyone who has received the Pfizer vaccine
and those still undecided about getting vaccinated or
boosted that this is an effective vaccine.”

study assessed immune responses to the Pfizer-BioNTech
vaccine in people with no prior exposure to COVID-19 28 days
after second vaccination, evaluating the ability of
vaccine-induced immune responses to neutralise viral

“Antibody responses overall were robust
and consistent with international data, and reassuringly
were not related to ethnicity, gender or to
overweight/obesity,” says Dr Priddy.

Similar to
international data, neutralising responses to the Omicron
variant were very low compared to the original strain, on
which the Pfizer vaccine is based, and the Delta variant.
This reinforces the need for people to get boosted says Dr

Dr Priddy says reduced antibodies were also
associated with age, with older groups having lower but
adequate responses. “People 75 years and over had the
lowest responses, but this was not unexpected. We know from
international data they are at risk for decreasing antibody
levels over time, which is why a booster dose is

People with type 2 diabetes also had
lower but sufficient antibody levels, independent of
ethnicity or body mass index. “As the pandemic continues
to evolve, older adults and people with diabetes should be
included when considering policy decisions about additional
booster doses,” says Dr Priddy.

The ongoing study is
assessing response to boosters, durability of responses and
T-cell immune responses.

Malaghan Institute Clinical
Immunologist Dr Maia Brewerton says ongoing research will be
important to monitor the difference seen in the immune
response in our population following a booster dose, as more
New Zealanders develop infection-induced or ‘hybrid’
immunity and as new variants arise.

“Not all
antibodies are created equal and neutralising antibodies are
particularly important because they can block the entry of
the virus into host cells and prevent

She says while the study showed no
difference in the antibody immune response in Māori when
compared to non-Māori, the rates of infection and
hospitalisation from COVID-19 remain higher amongst Māori
and Pasifika.

“The importance of driving up
vaccination rates and correcting health and social
inequities to reduce the burden of disease amongst these
groups remains

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