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COVID-19 Vaccine-Induced Immunity Explainer

Posted on 15 May 2021

I wrote an explainer on COVID-19 vaccination and had it published on The Vibes on 15 May 2021. First and foremost, I would like to say thank you to Tarmizi Halim (@ArcThe3rd), Nadia Malyanah (@diainthecity), and Arthur Yeow (@arthur_yeow) for helping me to improve the explainer!

I cited several research papers in this explainer. Usually for magazine publication like this, citation and footnote are not as important compared to research articles, and so the citations were not linked back to the original publications. However, these original sources are quite important to me personally not because I want readers to know about it, but more like it is a note for myself. Maybe next year I am coming back to the explainer and wanted to know where did I get the source, if I could not figure out by then I would be a little annoyed.

The Sources

Johansson et al., Jan 2021, “SARS-CoV-2 Transmission From People Without COVID-19 Symptoms”, JAMA. Findings: 30% of individuals with infection never develop symptoms, and they account for approximately 24% of all transmission.

Kirby, Oct 2020, “COVID-19 human challenge studies in the UK”, The Lancet. This is a brief article on the SARS-CoV-2 challenge clinical trial proposed in the United Kingdom.

Treanor & Wright, 2003, “ Immune correlates of protection against influenza in the human challenge model”, Dev Biol. This is a human challenge study against influenza infection, focusing on mucosal IgA-mediated immunity as correlate of protection against upper respiratory infection.

Wajnberg et al., Dec 2020, “Robust neutralizing antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 infection persist for months”, Science AAAS. This study looked at 72,401 individuals from the Manhattan area to measure the antibody levels reactive to SARS-CoV-2 and found out that the antibody levels post-infection remained stable for months.

Baumgarth et al., Sep 2020, “Antibody Responses to SARS-CoV-2: Let’s Stick to Known Knowns”, JI. This review article criticizes sensationalization and alarmist headlines pertaining to the immune response against SARS-CoV-2 by media, e.g. the fear-mongering on the rapid decline of antibody levels after infection.

Eguia et al., Apr 2021, “A human coronavirus evolves antigenically to escape antibody immunity”, PLOS Pathogens. This study looked at the evolutionary drift of human seasonal coronavirus 229E, a distantly related human coronavirus to the SARS-CoV-2, and describing that it had been evading human immunity during its circulation in the human population since its emergence in the 1960s. Note that human coronavirus 229E only causes very mild flu-like symptom.

Hervé et al., Sep 2019, “The how’s and what’s of vaccine reactogenicity”, NPJ Vaccines. This article provides an in-depth discussion on vaccine side effects, also known as reactogenicity. This process is caused by release of inflammatory proteins (also known as cytokines) to promote immune response, leading to increase in temperature, among other biological processes.

The process

Quite a surprise to me, I spent about 4 hours writing this 5-page (10 pt font size, 1.5 line spacing), and 3 hours or so editing and making the figures. Usually with explainers I had written (in Bahasa) for AmanzMY before, they took a little longer than that.

Anyway, it was fun writing it, and it was fun spending time writing about immunology for public consumption.