UPMC study shows effectiveness of vaccines in vulnerable populations

Coronavirus in Pennsylvania

PITTSBURGH, Pa. (WHTM) — While we keep hearing “get vaccinated” there’s still a lot we don’t know.

But UPMC says it’s starting to figure out whether the vaccines are doing the job for vulnerable populations.

Doctors say the data is promising and shows the vaccines are pretty effective, but even if you’ve been vaccinated, they stress that it’s important to keep being careful.

UPMC tested 70 elderly residents in long-term care facilities and found all 70 had detectible antibodies after both doses of the COVID vaccine.

Essentially, the vaccines work, but how well they work is a different story.

“While there is an antibody response to the vaccine, we don’t know how good of an antibody response it is, how well does it protect vulnerable older adults or exactly how long does this antibody response last?” said Dr. David Nace, chief medical officer of UPMC Senior Communities and associate professor in Pitt’s Division of Geriatric Medicine.

UPMC also tested 67 blood cancer patients and got a much different result. Only 54% of them showed antibodies.

“This finding does not mean that the vaccine did not work because there’s a lot more to our immune system than just antibodies,” said Dr. Ghady Haidar, UPMC transplant infectious diseases physician and assistant professor in Pitt’s Department of Infectious Diseases.

Half of them having antibodies means the vaccines are at least somewhat effective, but precautions still need to be taken, especially in between doses where doctors have seen some positive cases.

“Everyone should continue to wear masks and to social distance even after they get the vaccines, especially people who have blood cancers,” Haidar said. “Those around patients like this should do the same.”

And if you do test positive for the virus, UPMC is treating patients with monoclonal antibodies that have been effective in preventing severe disease and death.

“It’s given through a one-time infusion to certain people soon after their diagnosis of COVID-19 while their symptoms are not severe enough to require being in a hospital,” said Tami Minnier, UPMC chief quality officer.

The bottom line is researchers, doctors and experts keep telling us these vaccines are safe and effective and you should get one as soon as you can.

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