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Experts believe the covid-19 vaccine might not be very effective in obese patients

Published on:11 August 2020, 13:27pm IST
Obesity and covid-19 share a miserable relationship. Your weight not just determines how complex your case of coronavirus can be, it can also render any vaccine ineffective.
Meghna Kriplani
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Your weight can the be ultimate villain in this covid-19 saga. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Of all the risk factors that make covid-19 even more dangerous for someone, obesity ranks number one. Not only can obesity trigger severe complications from viral infections, but it can also make recovery from the SARS-CoV-2 infection all the more difficult. And now it would seem, that even a vaccine might not be able to save obese people from the repercussions of covid-19.

According to a report in the British news outlet DailyMail.com, the covid-19 vaccine might not be very effective in obese people. The media outlet quoted Dr Chat Petit, an assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham as saying: “It is not a question of not working, it is more of a question of efficacy. In other words, the vaccine could work but it may not be as effective.”

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Not just coronavirus, obesity can reduce the efficacy of other vaccines as well
A 2017 study published in the journal Human Vaccines and Immunotherapeutics found that obesity can lead to non-responsiveness of the hepatitis-B vaccine in patients, thus affecting immunization. The reason behind, the researchers concurred, was the inflammation in the body that excess weight causes.

Similarly, a study from the International Journal of Obesity states that obese people who have been vaccinated against the flu were twice as likely to contract the infection as compared to their non-obese vaccinated counterparts.

covid-19 and obesity
Waiting for covid-19 vaccine? There is no point of it if you are an obese. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Perhaps this is also the reason why the efficacy of the covid-19 vaccine in the obese portion of the population is coming into question.

This revelation is shedding light on the role of T-cells in the body
One of the most important elements of adaptive immune system, T-cells are responsible for killing infected host cells—which keeps diseases from spreading in the body. Not just that, these cells are also behind regulating your body’s immune response—making them extremely important when it comes to fighting off SARS-CoV-2 virus.

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Now, the inflammation that obesity causes in the body can lead to T-cell dysfunction, which according to Dr Petit, lead to an impaired response to the covid-19 vaccine.

This doesn’t mean obese people should forgo the covid-19 vaccine
Citing the influenza-vaccine study that looked at both obese and non-obese participants, Dr Petit told the Daily Mail: “Obese adults that received the influenza vaccine in that study were still protected, just not as well as non-obese individuals.” In other word, some protection is better than no protection at all.

Five per cent of India’s population is already struggling with obesity and this number is primed to rise—all thanks to the lockdown and quarantine that has trapped us in our homes for close to six months now. With our normal routine interrupted and our lifestyles becoming even more sedentary than ever before, weight gain, being overweight and obese are likely to be the new realities for most of us in an ironic twist of fate.

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If you’re obese, chances are covid-19 will make your life more miserable than most. And if you’re living in this sedentary pandemic era, then you are likely to put on weight. The solution here, fortunately, is fairly simple: gyms might be closed, but there are plenty of exercises you can do at home. You make healthier choices, choosing fresh foods over unhealthy processed junk for meals. Yes, the going is getting tougher by the minute, but like we’ve said before: when it comes covid-19 it’s better safe than sorry.

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Meghna Kriplani Meghna Kriplani

Waging a war against diets one cookie at a time, Meghna is a content creator and editor focusing on women's issues, wellness, and lifestyle.