Researchers study effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccine in those who are obese

Health officials say people who are obese are more vulnerable to the coronavirus, and researchers are now studying how weight impacts vaccine effectiveness.

“The reasons for vaccine failure, as we call it, are twofold,” said Dr. Jay Gupta, an associated professor with Florida Gulf Coast University’s health science department. “One, it can be due to the vaccine itself, whether it has been prepared properly, whether it has been stored properly.”

Gupta says the other reason vaccines fail is due to whom it’s being administered to.

“Honestly, not much research has been done on this, but we know that obesity is a factor,” Gupta said.

That’s a problem. A little more than 42% of adults in the United States are obese, and vaccines must work to reach herd immunity.

“The immune reaction of that in a person with obesity is delayed. It’s slower. It’s weaker somehow,” said Dr. Gianluca Iacobellis, the director of UM Hospital’s diabetes service. “This may affect the ability of the person with obesity to properly and effectively respond to the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Iacobellis works with labs across the world to find out how much obesity impacts the COVID-19 vaccine efficacy.

“My feeling is not that people with obesity will have no effect from the vaccine, so they will definitely have some degree of immunity,” Iacobellis explained.

Doctors say people who are obese might not get as much protection from vaccines, but the protection they do gain might last longer. That research is still needed to confirm these theories.

Iacobellis hopes to have answers about the effect COVID-19 vaccines have on those with obesity in the next few months.

Until then, Gupta said this is a time for the health community to encourage preventative measures in society.

“This is a chance for the physicians and the public health officials to advise the public to adopt a healthier lifestyle, and that will help them, not only to boost up immunity against the coronavirus or increase the efficacy of the vaccination,” Gupta said.

MORE: CDC – Adult Obesity Facts


Iacobellis told us people can sign up to be a part of the trials for obesity and vaccine effectiveness. All they have to do is contact his division, the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at the University of Miami.

Reporter:Veronica Marshall
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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