Oxford researchers will be involved in a major new study seeking to understand why some people become infected after vaccination or prior infection while others do not
Oxford BRC-supported investigators already involved in the Protective Immunity from T-Cells in Healthcare workers (PITCH) study will be part of a consortium of academic partners involved in the new study launched by Public Health England (PHE) with £1.5million in funding from UKRI.
The PHE’s landmark SARS-COV2 immunity and reinfection evaluation (SIREN) study together with a number of other research cohorts and partners including the PITCH study and the Humoral Immune Correlates of COVID-19 (HICC), the Genotype to Phenotype (G2P) Consortium, GENOMICC and the Crick Institute will assess their detailed immune system response to COVID-19 infections and vaccinations.
The research will seek to answer a number of key questions, including why some people get reinfections or infections after vaccination while others do not. It will also assess how long immunity from vaccinations lasts, how the timeline differs between the different vaccines and how changes in the SARS-CoV-2 virus genetic make-up might evade the immune response.
Individuals enrolled in the study are given PCR tests every two weeks as well as regular antibody blood tests. The antibody results of those individuals who test positive for COVID-19 despite having had two doses of the vaccine or a previous confirmed infection will be analysed by further specialised clinical interviews and tests to determine whether there are aspects of their immune response that differ from individuals who do not contract COVID-19. This could help to identify factors that increase the risk of ‘breakthrough’ infections – when a person catches COVID-19 after having two doses of vaccine.
Participants may also be asked if they would like to participate in analysis of their genetic code via GENOMICC, to see if there are particular mutations in their DNA that might predict a poor response to vaccination.
Professor Susan Hopkins, COVID-19 Strategic Response Director at PHE said: “Understanding the immune response is essential not only to determine who is most at risk of infections after vaccination, but also for vaccine developers who can target key components of the immune response effectively for future boost vaccines.
“We are pleased that this funding will allow us to better understand immunity and are very grateful to the nearly 50,000 participants who have given up their time to take part in the study.”