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The University of Southampton

New research to understand immune responses to COVID-19 vaccination

Published: 7 March 2023
COVID 19 virus image

University of Southampton researchers are to lead a new landmark study to understand immune responses to COVID-19 vaccination.

The study will involve 3000 people who have compromised immune systems or who do not respond well to vaccinations. COVID-19 infections have disproportionately affected this group of people and this study aims to understand why.

It is hoped the study will provide up-to-date information on the impact of booster vaccinations for clinicians, policymakers and the public and inform future advice given to people who are immunosuppressed.

The study entitled 'Stratification of Clinically Vulnerable People for COVID-19 Risk Using Antibody Testing (STRAVINSKY)' has received £2.8 million from the Department of Health and Social Care via the NIHR.

Of the 3,000 participants, 2,600 will receive a finger-prick antibody test and 400 will receive more detailed immune analyses.

Dr Sean Lim, of the University of Southampton is co-chief investigator alongside colleagues at the University of Birmingham. She said: “We have identified the groups of people who are more likely to develop severe COVID-19 disease. But the risk of severe COVID-19 disease on a personal level has been difficult to predict. The STRAVINSKY study will investigate whether antibody testing can provide personalised risk prediction in 3000 clinically vulnerable people.  This is a very important step in deciding the most appropriate prophylactic and treatment strategies.”

The STRAVINSKY study team will work closely with researchers from the PITCH study, which focuses on healthcare workers’ immune response. It has been funded by UKRI.

Professor Lucy Chappell, NIHR CEO and Department of Health and Social Care Chief Scientific Adviser said: “This study will help to understand how different patient groups with weakened immune systems respond to COVID-19, including new variants, and to vaccination. We hope that it will inform development of more specific advice and help people understand their own levels of risk, based on better information from antibody levels.”

Health Minister Will Quince said: “There remains a number of people with weakened immune systems who may be at higher risk of serious illness from Covid, despite the effectiveness and success of our phenomenal vaccination programme.

“We are committed to helping immunosuppressed people with support that is grounded in data and evidence, and this landmark study - delivered by the UK’s world leading researchers - will help us understand which patient groups remain at higher risk and how best to help them.”

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