National | Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

Maia Brewerton: Booster is still viable immunity boost after Omicron recovery

A study that investigated immune responses to the Pfizer vaccine, in New Zealanders at risk for Covid-19 has shown reassuring results,.

The 'Ka Mātau Ka Ora' study, is the largest evaluation of vaccine immune responses in Māori and was part of the work of the government-funded Vaccine Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand

The study shows near-universal strong immune responses in recipients, after two doses.

Dr Maia Brewerton, a clinical immunologist for the Malaghan Institute, joined Te Ao Tapatahi to discuss the data from the 'Ka Mātau Ka Ora' study and to point out key differences as New Zealanders and Māori weren't represented in the international studies' findings.

Brewerton says the study was able to secure 30% Māori and 30% Pasifika as well as other vulnerable groups to Covid 19 such as the elderly.

She says she is grateful to the participants of the study as they were able to present data about New Zealanders from New Zealanders. “It's great because we were able to find out that they respond really well to the vaccine after they had two doses measuring their antibody responses.”

Local results mirror overseas

“It was important for us to show our people that we have looked, and to show that the evidence that we were seeing overseas was what we were seeing here as well”.

Brewerton said the virus had "disproportionately affected our communities so that the infection rates and the hospitalisation rates are higher amongst Māori and Pasifika”.

These results raised the question of whether the vaccine was even working for these communities. “It is clear from the research that the vaccine gives the exact same immune response to these groups but there are other health inequities that need to be addressed before these rates go down.”

Brewerton says “as you get older your immune response is not as good as when you are younger” and “this study will be able to see the immunity of older people dropping and the effect the booster will have on that weakened immunity response”.

She says “it's never too late” to keep driving the vaccinations rates up and that “there is still more work to be done”.

“Data that we are receiving overseas shows the critical importance of the booster, so I would encourage, even if you have had Omicron, the booster is still going to build your immunity further.”