We know that people with elevated body weight are at a higher risk of more severe COVID-19 infection; as such, people with obesity were appropriately prioritized in many jurisdictions for earlier vaccination.
However, as prior studies have suggested a lower immune response to other (non-COVID) vaccines in people with obesity, the question has been raised as to whether the coronavirus vaccines are as effective in people with elevated body weight.
The Obesity Society has published a position statement on this important topic. They critically evaluated data from published peer-reviewed literature and briefing documents from Emergency Use Authorization applications submitted by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.
The efficacy data of the various COVID vaccinations are as follows:
- Pfizer: 95.4% in people with obesity (BMI ≥30), vs 94.8% in people without obesity
- Moderna: 91.2% in people with severe obesity (BMI ≥40) vs 94.5% overall
- Janssen (Johnson & Johnson): 65.9% in people with obesity, vs 66.1% overall
- Astra Zeneca: there is currently not clear vaccine efficacy data available in people with obesity.
We are still lacking in terms of more granular data on this important subject. For instance, there is a lack of information about the relative efficacy of the coronavirus vaccines in the different subtypes of obesity (e.g., in people with very high BMI ≥60, different patterns of body fat distribution, etc).
As the authors conclude, the efficacy of the Pfizer, Moderna, and Janssen COVID-19 vaccines are not significantly different in people with vs without obesity.
Vaccination is the best way to prevent COVID infection, for people of all sizes.
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A heartfelt thank you to my colleague Dr Paul Welsh at the University of Glasgow for bringing these important data to my attention, and for his important research in this area.
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