The T-Cell Covid Cavalry – WSJ

A sample of cell cultures under a microscope during Covid-19 antibody neutralization testing at the African Health Research Institute in Durban, South Africa, Dec. 15.


Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg News

We hope this isn’t forbidden to report by the public-health pessimists, but there’s some good news about the vaccine defense against the Omicron variant. A pair of separate studies—from the Netherlands and South Africa—have found that T cells mobilized by vaccination reduce the severity of the disease.

The vaccines generate antibodies against Covid, but those defenses have been found to be less effective over time. T cells, a type of white blood cell, are a second line of defense that have held up better. The Dutch study found that while antibody responses fade against Omicron, the T cell response remains robust.

This may explain why Omicron infections so far appear to have resulted in relatively fewer hospitalizations and deaths. While antibodies block infection, T cells attack and kill cells that are infected. This helps reduce the spread of the disease. So far at least, Omicron infections among the vaccinated don’t seem to attack the lungs the way other variants have.

There’s much more to learn about Omicron and how to defeat it, but the studies suggest the vaccines and boosters will continue to be a vital defense. A good omen for the New Year.

Covid-19 is an ever-mutating virus, so rather than panic and reimpose pandemic restrictions when new strains like Delta and Omicron are discovered, the world should learn to live with them. Image: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images Composite: Mark Kelly

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Appeared in the December 31, 2021, print edition.

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