Researchers at UC Davis use rhesus monkeys to understand long-term efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines

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DAVIS, Calif. (KTXL) – Studies at the California National Primate Research Center at UC Davis have gathered crucial information in understanding the long-term efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines.

“The immune makeup of the rhesus monkey is very similar to that in humans,” said UC Davis immunologist Smita Iyer.

The COVID-19 virus gathered directly from UC Davis health patients was introduced to several primate subjects last March at the very beginning of the pandemic.

Researchers found that a variety of immune systems kicked in in the animals, indicating that a vaccine could be developed, information that could not be easily gathered from human tissue samples.

“The animal model gives you an opportunity to look at it at a level of detail that is not possible in human studies,” Iyer explained.

The COVID-19 vaccines are so new that it’s unclear how long they stay effective, with some saying a yearly vaccination is required, while others are hopeful that they will work for two or three years.

It turns out that a type of long-term antibody is produced in primate subjects with the aid of what Iyer calls “Captain America helper-cells.” Research shows that the virus or its components may allow these cells to come to the rescue in humans, as well as monkeys.

“The good news is that if these cells are induced, it is a very good sign that long-lasting antibody can be induced by infection and that vaccines then that simulate this very same immune response will also be able to induce long-lasting immunity,” Iyer told FOX40.

These findings could enable vaccine makers to fine-tune them to encourage long-term antibody production.

It’s not likely that the COVID-19 vaccines will be rise to the gold standard of the measles vaccines, which are effective for life.

It’s too early to tell if there will be extended protection with the new vaccines, but even the possibility is encouraging.

“The more people that get vaccinated the closer we will be to achieving herd immunity and the end of this pandemic,” Iyer said.

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