When COVID-19 dawned in early 2020, we were only familiar with the prominent G and GR strains that put every city on lockdown, caused every establishment to close, and bred panic in hospitals and governments alike. With local and global public health and safety efforts, such as mask-wearing, social distancing, and quarantine, things seemed to get better for a while — until new strains started to emerge.
Fast-forward to 2021, the COVID-19 virus has continuously mutated into alpha, beta, mu, and delta, the variant that is of the biggest global concern today, spreading twice as fast and having a shorter incubation period. From this trend, it’s safe to assume that COVID-19 will continue to mutate into variants that we are yet to be introduced to.
What people are asking now is if the vaccine, made with COVID-19 compounds, will be able to protect us from variants that are yet to be. Scientists are exploring what they termed as “super immunity,” which apparently some people have but others don’t. So what is super immunity?
COVID-19 Super Immunity in a Nutshell
Super immunity is used to describe superior protection against existing COVID-19 variants, as well as future strains. This rose into fruition when doctors discovered that some people who have been infected with initial strains of COVID-19 were naturally able to ward off the delta variant with a high level of immunity.
Scientists have attributed this to the antibodies that were developed after a prior infection, which helped block COVID-19 mutations. Recovered individuals who have received their vaccines also have a higher level of protection compared to those who were never infected at all. Scientists know this for a fact, however, why previously infected individuals have it and those who’ve never had COVID-19 don’t is still a mystery.
Super Immunity Can Be the Answer
Studies are underway to determine the difference between individuals with super immunity and those without it in hopes to find a solution to stopping COVID-19 from mutating. The current hypothesis is that prior infections and vaccines helped produce hybrid antibodies that were more flexible — enough to recognize future COVID-19 strains and fight them.
Recent studies suggest that super immunity can be the result of memory B cells, which are only triggered after infection or vaccination. Preceding a trigger, memory B cells can multiply and produce more potent antibodies, which can be strong enough to ward off COVID-19 and its mutations.
More research and clinical studies are required to find the answer, and hopefully, soon. With accurate data on the actual cause of super immunity, scientists are confident that governments, leaders, and individuals can better prepare for future variants and reduce casualties.
A virologist from Atlanta also stresses the importance of further studies, saying that identifying the cause of super immunity can have implications on our immune response and the production of COVID-19 booster shots. By understanding how prior infections affect the body, we can create vaccines that replicate its effects and make super immunity less exclusive.
What We Can Do in the Meantime
Scientists are scampering to find the answer. But while more research is being conducted to further understand super immunity, let’s play our part in helping curb the spread of COVID-19. Continue practicing social distancing, wearing masks, and getting vaccinated. On an individual level, our small efforts and behaviors can create big impacts on determining our future — whether we live with COVID-19 or without.