“COVID-19 vaccine weakens innate immunity.” Fact checking DW

The coronavirus vaccination weakens the body’s immune system, some netizens confidently argue. In doing so, they often refer to the research of Dutch scientists. Is this true? Found out DW.

Not too long ago, DMAX and Hamburg 1 caused a stir on Twitter and Facebook with the sensational headline “Does BioNTech vaccine weaken the immune system?” It was about research by scientists at the University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands, the results of which told about the effect of this mRNA vaccine on the immune system. They were published in May this year on medRxiv. The platform is designed to publish preliminary results of scientific research that do not have the status of verified data and are not peer-reviewed by the scientific community.

However, some users were quick to claim that the work contains evidence of the negative impact of the BioNTech / Pfizer mRNA vaccine on human immunity. This was the reason for the DW investigation: what exactly was studied and how substantiated the conclusions of the study were.

Does the covid vaccine weaken the innate immunity?

No. A study by Dutch scientists was conducted to determine the effectiveness of the BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine against SARS-CoV-2. Its effectiveness has been confirmed, said DW Mihai Nethea, one of the authors of the study. At the same time, the scientist emphasized that the statement about the weakening of innate immunity by the BioNTech / Pfizer vaccination is not true:

“We wanted to study the effect of new mRNA vaccines on immunity. This is important because they will accompany us for a long time. It is sad that some interpret the results of this work in a direction that was not at all intended.”

What was the essence of the study? Its authors, working with 16 volunteers, analyzed the response of the immune system to various stimulants. The results of the study confirmed that vaccination with BioNTech vaccine affects both acquired and innate immunity. But how?

The cells of the immune system of the participants were stimulated both with the help of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and with other pathogens – particles of viruses, bacteria, fungi. Depending on the type of stimulant, it turned out that the response of the immune system was stronger or weaker than usual.

Christine Falk, head of the German Society for Immunology, notes that the results of this work clearly demonstrate how delicately the immune system works at the molecular level, and indicate that innate immunity can also be “trained”.

Is it more likely to get sick after vaccination?

No, it is not correct. The human immune system is universal. She is able to successfully fight viruses on several fronts at the same time, says Christina Falk:

“Imagine: in our body there is a whole army of T-cells and B-cells and only ten of them are currently fighting with spike proteins, and the rest of the army is at the ready. So there is no reason to worry that the immune system after vaccination becomes more vulnerable. “

Are the changes that mRNA vaccines cause in the immune system dangerous?

“Reprogramming of innate immunity”. This is exactly the wording that worried users on the network, which was used by DMAX and Hamburg 1. In fact, this phrase is just a synonym for the expressions “innate immunological resistance” and “trained immunity”. As Falk explains, absolutely all vaccines affect innate immunity, and not just drugs against SARS-CoV-2. Mihai Netea says:

“Reprogramming an innate immune response cannot be equated with weakening the entire immune system.”

Weakened protection against viruses and enhanced against fungi

When discussing the research of Dutch scientists on Twitter, one of the users refers to Alexander Kekule, a famous immunologist and publicist, head of the Institute for Medical Microbiology at the University Hospital in Halle. He allegedly claims that Dutch researchers have come to the conclusion that the BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine weakens immunity to other viruses. Is this what the German immunologist was talking about?

In May this year, on the air of the German public-legal media company MDR, Kekulé really spoke about a study by Dutch scientists regarding the effect of inoculation with the BioNTech / Pfizer mRNA vaccine on immunity. He recalled that not only antibodies and cytotoxic T cells after vaccination are important for immunity, but also innate immunity, which begins its activity even before the formation of a “memory” of the pathogen. The expert explains: “And it is this immunity, which has nothing to do with vaccination, that is modulated (as a result of vaccination).” He literally said the following:

“The amazing thing is that this modulation, as the Dutch show, is that some of the defense mechanisms that work against certain viruses and bacteria are slowed down by vaccination. This means that when I get vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2, it naturally activates the immune response of the body to infection with this new virus. protection “.

At the same time, Kekule indicates that other cases are known to immunologists. For example, when a person vaccinated against virus A is better protected from virus B:

“But in this case, the innate immunity decreases. At the same time – attention! – in relation to fungal diseases, everything happens exactly the opposite. That is, if you were vaccinated with the BioNTech vaccine, you have an enhanced immune response to fungi, but a weakened immune response to other viruses and bacteria. “

However, by the time of the publication of the investigation, DW Kekule did not respond to the editorial request, which contained a request to comment on his words about the study of Dutch scientists.

“Vaccination permanently changes our immune system.”

No. According to Mihai Nethea, the changes are short-term. This is also confirmed by Christina Falk. 2 weeks after the second vaccination against coronavirus, the immune system, having received the necessary antibodies, returns to normal operation.

Christina Falk is convinced that the danger, rather, is a change in the immune system due to a previous illness:

“We examined 100 patients. All of them had a shift in the immune cells in the blood. This means that even in the absence of complications, the virus makes a” mess “in the immune system. Even with a mild illness, the immune system fights with all its might. The resulting changes are noticeable and over the course of months. And that gives me great anxiety. “

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