COVID-19 Roundup: Reinfections More Common in Seniors; Antibodies in Newborns; and Pandemic Weight-Gain Survey

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March 26, 2021


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Coronavirus Reinfections Still Rare, But More Common in Those 65 or Older, Study Says

Most people who have been infected with COVID-19 are unlikely to contract the disease again for at least six months, but those 65 and older are more prone to reinfection, according to a study published in the Lancet.

An analysis of test results in Denmark last year found that people under age 65 who had been infected with COVID-19 were about 80 percent protected from getting it again. However, protection decreased significantly to 47 percent for those 65 and older, according to researchers from the Statens Serum Institut and University of Copenhagen, Denmark; and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control in Sweden.

The researchers emphasize that their findings reinforce the importance of measures to protect the elderly – including social distancing and vaccinations — even if they have already been diagnosed with COVID-19.

“Our study confirms what a number of others appeared to suggest: reinfection with COVID-19 is rare in younger, healthy people, but the elderly are at greater risk of catching it again,” said Steen Ethelberg, M.D., from the Statens Serum Institut, Denmark, in a statement.

As part of the study, data was collected from Denmark’s national COVID-19 testing program, during which more than two-thirds of the population (4 million people) were tested in 2020. The data spanned Denmark’s first and second waves to estimate protection against repeat infection with the original COVID-19 strain. The study’s authors said the time-frame of their study did not allow for a review of possible protection against reinfection with COVID-19 variants, some of which are known to be more transmissible.

In line with results from other studies, the researchers found no evidence that protection against reinfection with COVID-19 diminished within six months after initial infection.


Evolving Studies Confirm that Moms Can Transfer COVID-19 Immunity to Their Babies

Pregnant women who receive a COVID-19 vaccine acquire protective antibodies against the coronavirus — and very likely pass along this immunity to their babies, evolving research seems to confirm.

Several preliminary studies indicate that pregnant women who received one of the mRNA vaccines, from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, were found to have COVID-19 antibodies in their umbilical cord blood. Separate research found that antibodies were present in their breastmilk, a significant sign that some immunity could be provided to babies both before and after birth.

So-called mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein –– or even just a piece of a protein –– that triggers an immune response inside our bodies

A baby in Palm Beach County was born with COVID-19 antibodies weeks after the mother was vaccinated against the coronavirus. Boca Raton pediatricians Chad Rudnick, M.D., and Paul Gilbert, M.D., said the baby is likely among the first born with detected COVID-19 protection attributed to the vaccine.

The mother is a front-line healthcare worker who received her first dose of the Moderna vaccine in late December. Three weeks later, she delivered a healthy baby girl. The antibodies were confirmed during a routine testing of the blood from the child’s umbilical cord, the pediatricians said.

A separate study, which was published this month on medrXiv.com, monitored 131 women. Eighty-four of them were pregnant, 31 were lactating, and the remainder were non-pregnant and non-lactating women between the ages of 18 and 45.

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School measured the level of antibodies in the participants before and after they received the vaccine. High levels of antibodies were detected in all women following vaccinations. And all of the participants who have given birth had antibodies detected in their babies’ umbilical cord blood, the researchers said.


Survey: Weight Gained During Stressful Pandemic Averaged 29 pounds

The popular term — Quarantine 15 — alludes to coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic with an extra 15 pounds. However, a new survey by the American Psychological Association has found that 42 percent of U.S. adults said they gained too much weight. And the amount of gained weight they reported averaged 29 pounds.

The survey of more than 3,000 people also found that one in 10 respondents said they gained more than 50 pounds, which the APA says is a warning sign that people are struggling with mental-health challenges.

More women (45 percent) reported weight gain than men (39 percent). But men reported a higher average gain at 37 pounds, compared to the women’s average of 22 pounds. Additionally, more than half of U.S. adults surveyed (53 percent) said they have been less physically active than they wanted to be since the pandemic started.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of obesity among Americans was at 42 percent before the pandemic. Weight gain that leads to obesity can put people at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19. Obesity is also a major risk factor for heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

“The prolonged stress experienced by adults, especially the high levels of stress reported by Americans directly linked to the pandemic, is seriously affecting mental and physical health, including changes to weight, sleep and alcohol use,” the APA states in a news release.

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