Covid boosters protect against other viruses.

Science Alert has some encouraging research for those who keep up with their immunizations, with evidence that covid boosters offer increased protection against other strains of coronavirus, and other viruses too:

“These data suggest that if these cross-reactive antibodies do not rapidly wane – we would need to follow their levels over time to know for certain – they may confer some or even substantial protection against a pandemic caused by a related coronavirus,” explains Washington University immunologist Michael Diamond.

Other vaccinations, such as those for the flu, are not necessarily made more effective by booster shots. Initial vaccinations prompt our immune system to create antibodies to recognize and fight an invasive virus. The details of the antibody are carried by memory immune cells, which help keep watch for and sound the alarm if the virus reappears, quickly producing more of the specific antibodies to defend against it.

When it comes to the flu, these cells are then so good at their jobs, they overwhelm our attempts to introduce updated antibodies through subsequent vaccinations. This is problematic as it leaves little chance for our bodies to store the more updated antibodies’ details in memory B cells, weakening our response to future viral variants.

There was some concern this would occur with COVID-19 vaccines, too. So, using a mouse model and human volunteers who had contracted SARS-CoV-2, Washington University immunologist Chieh-Yu Liang and colleagues examined the memory B cell antibodies after different combinations of vaccines.

Incredibly, the researchers found that across doses, the response of the immune system to variants of the virus grows stronger, which is a sign of positive imprinting. In both humans and mice, rather than seeing antibodies specific to any one variant, the researchers found the majority of the antibodies reacted to both tested COVID-19 strains – the original and omicron.

Further tests in mice revealed not only could the antibody response deal with a panel of different SARS-CoV-2 strains, but it could also help subdue SARS-CoV-1 as well, which derives from the 2002 to 2003 epidemic.

You can read more of the Washington University research here, in Nature.