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Getting COVID-19 may damage your immune system
By Alice Park
Senior Health Correspondent

Doctors are still working out exactly how the body protects itself against COVID-19, and one new study shows just how complicated the dance between SARS-CoV-2 and immune cells might be. Researchers led by a team at Stanford University found that people who were infected with the virus and then vaccinated with an mRNA vaccine didn't generate as strong an immune response as people who were vaccinated and had never been infected. The results suggest that an infection may damage so-called "killer T cells," a population of immune-system T cells that destroy and remove infected cells and are important for long-term protection.

Here are the main takeaways from the research:

  • People who never had COVID-19 generated levels of killer T cells 67 times higher after their shots; for people who had COVID-19 and then got vaccinated, the number of killer T cells produced was 3.6- to 54.1-fold lower.
  • The researchers are continuing their work to see if the reduced T-cell response is related to Long COVID.
  • In making booster recommendations, health officials should consider and study other vaccine types besides mRNA to see if this reduced immune-system response is related to Long COVID.


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Today's newsletter was written by Alice Park and Haley Weiss, and edited by Elijah Wolfson.