COVID-19 Explainer: How Are Antibodies Formed And How Long Do They Last?

COVID-19 Explainer: How Are Antibodies Formed And How Long Do They Last?

Here’s a quick lowdown on what are antibodies, how are they formed in the body after getting COVID-19 infection or vaccination and how long does the immunity last?
Coronavirus Explainers
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COVID-19 Explainer: How Are Antibodies Formed And How Long Do They Last? What are antibodies? How do these get formed and how long do these last?

New Delhi: Recently 62-year-old Dr KK Aggarwal, a former president of the Indian Medical Association and a prominent face of the medical fraternity in the country died after a lengthy battle with COVID.  The Padma Shri award winner had been on ventilator support at Delhi’s All India Institute Of Medical Science
(AIIMS) hospital for few days before his death. He had taken both doses of the vaccine.

Not just Dr KK Aggarwal, there are other doctors as well who succumbed to COVID-19 despite completing the vaccine course of two doses.

So, why are people dying of COVID despite both the doses of vaccine? Do the antibodies work against the variants? These and many other questions remain commonly asked in this continued fight against Covid-19. NDTV speaks with experts to understand how antibodies work and how long do they last in the body to provide protection against coronavirus.

Also Read: A Survivor’s Story: Hyderabad’s Youngest COVID Patient Defeats Coronavirus Successfully

What Are Antibodies?

There are basically two types of antibodies – one, which are the naturally produced antibodies when the body gets infected with the disease and the other way to acquire antibodies is through vaccines.

Dr PS Narang, Associate Director, Paediatric, Max Healthcare said,

Antibodies are just number, we cannot really put it as a benchmark. Even with higher antibodies one may get the infection and vice versa. So, one should not become relaxed, virus only multiples in hosts, if we decrease the number of hosts, it won’t be able to travel, and we will be able to reduce its variants as well as it won’t be able to mutate. We need to stop that chain of transmission and that really is the key.

Also Read: Expert Answers Questions On COVID-19 Vaccination And Treatment

How Are Antibodies Formed?

Talking about the first line of defence – T cells, Dr Pradeep Suri, Pathologist, Director, Dr Suri Lab said that normally when a person contracts the virus, the first natural reaction comes in the body from T cells present in the blood. He added,

These start acting on the virus the minute it enters the body. If successful, these T-cells stall the virus from further invading the body. However, if T-cells manage to block the virus at the onset then the body never end up developing any antibodies. Therefore, there have seen in the past, cases where people developed a mild infection but on testing, they showed no signs of antibodies.

How many T cells are there in one’s body depends on how young the person is. Younger a person is, the more efficiently these T-cells work and that’s why it is seen that children have strong capabilities of fighting the virus.

Explaining the tests which are available in the market to check for T cell Immunity, Dr Pradeep Suri added,

T Cell immunity has a good role to play, but unfortunately we don’t have any marker to know if in somebody these cells have made the memory to fight the infection or not. There is one way to check the T-cell immunity and that is only while you have the infection and mostly people will end up with a very mild infection, so the need for testing won’t arise as such.

Many studies have also shown that people who get T cell immunity are also less likely to get re-infected with the virus. Even with the new variants, people with T cell immunity are protected. Reason – T cells develop the memory and remember to fight out the virus like it did before.

But if T cells have not managed to fight out the virus, then the activity of B cells kick-in. Their primary job is also to fight the infection and these also end up developing a strong memory. Explaining the working of B cells, Dr PS Narang said,

Once these cells start working, the body starts producing antibodies, the first is IGM antibodies, which develop in seven days and these last up to six weeks or so. These are basically the antibodies that fight out the virus during the time of infection. The next set of antibodies are IGG, which are the antibodies that are the protective ones. These are called neutralising antibodies and are the most important of the lot. These start forming in two to three weeks time and stay within the body for six months.

Whereas, in case of vaccines, antibodies are developed through the B Cells. In these as well, the number of antibodies doesn’t really matter, what matter is the specific virus protective antibodies. For example, since Covaxin is a whole virus, it will form more antibodies and Covishield will have less antibodies as it works only on spike protein. But this doesn’t mean that either of them is less effective because the one that really matters – IGG antibodies are the same in both the vaccines.

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What Is Quantum Of Antibodies Produced In The Body And How Much Is Enough?

According to experts antibodies depend on how healthy the immune system is. The same level of infection can lead to different levels of antibodies being produced in different people. The same will depend upon on a person’s age, comorbidities. The healthier a person, the better the chances of producing antibodies.

Explaining how much of antibodies can be considered enough, Dr PS Narang said,

As far as patients are concerned, getting antibodies check is not necessary, we should be able to develop good antibodies against the virus after the two doses of vaccine – whether it is Covaxin or Covishield. But after taking the vaccination, it is not the time to relax, it is time to keep the mask on, maintain social distance and follow all COVID appropriate behaviour. Lot of people think, if the total of antibodies in their body is high it is nice, but it is important to know out of that total, how many are the ones that actually protect you from the virus. We need those antibodies that will end up protecting us from the virus. We need more of neutralising antibodies as they are effective in preventing the virus.

Also Read: Dos And Don’ts Of Using Steroids In COVID-19 Treatment

Why Do Reinfections Happen Despite Antibodies?

Experts explain that if the virus load that someone has contracted is really high, then even the presence of a good amount of antibodies cannot provide protection against the infection –  be it natural antibodies or vaccine acquired antibodies. This was the case seen in doctors who  recently lost their lives due to COVID despite getting vaccinated.

It is also said that the load is directly proportional to the exposure, meaning, the more time one spends in the presence of the virus, the higher the virus load is be going to be.

The chances are that reinfections will not be severe but one cannot let the guard down. So, wear a N95 mask or double mask and maintain social distance.

Talking about the tests available for the individuals to know the antibodies in their body,
Dr Pradeep Suri added,

The gold standard still remains the neutralising antibodies in the body. One can go for spike antibody test. But we haven’t come up with the good number or ball-mark figure that we put to these tests because of two factors – a. we don’t have enough published data, b. the same spike antibodies across different platforms are not harmonised or standardised.

So should one go for the antibody tests or not, highlighting that answer, Kartik Cherabuddi, Associate Professor for Infectious Disease and Global Medicine, University of Florida said,

Checking these antibodies doesn’t help – depending on when you check you might get different results. Plus, these tests are not standardise. Either you get all sense of security, or you get nothing, and this is not the case with these. Overall, we know, vaccines do a better job in protecting you. So, even though you have got infected, you should get vaccinated when your turn comes.

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NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene


Coronavirus has spread to 193 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 17,66,30,634 and 38,22,022 have died; 5,80,25,717 are active cases and 11,47,82,895 have recovered as on June 16, 2021 at 3:30 am.


2,96,33,105 62,224Cases
2,83,88,100 1,07,628Recovered
3,79,573 2,542Deaths
In India, there are 2,96,33,105 confirmed cases including 3,79,573 deaths. The number of active cases is 8,65,432 and 2,83,88,100 have recovered as on June 16, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths

59,24,773 7,652

1,41,440 8,982

56,69,179 15,176

1,14,154 1,458


27,77,010 5,041

1,62,303 9,859

25,81,559 14,785

33,148 115


27,48,204 12,246

1,12,792 1,456

26,23,904 13,536

11,508 166

Tamil Nadu

23,78,298 11,805

1,25,215 11,669

22,23,015 23,207

30,068 267

Andhra Pradesh

18,20,134 5,741

75,134 4,879

17,32,948 10,567

12,052 53

Uttar Pradesh

17,03,207 270

7,221 890

16,74,072 1,104

21,914 56

West Bengal

14,68,044 3,268

20,046 1,125

14,30,949 2,068

17,049 75


14,31,498 228

3,078 148

14,03,569 364

24,851 12


9,88,172 609

11,717 943

9,63,113 1,544

13,342 8


9,50,133 172

5,619 848

9,35,658 1,006

8,856 14


8,59,526 3,405

44,358 3,436

8,11,780 6,799

3,388 42


8,21,078 352

8,884 658

8,02,187 1,006

10,007 4

Madhya Pradesh

7,88,649 224

3,610 331

7,76,424 528

8,615 27


7,66,357 228

3,703 374

7,53,584 564

9,070 38


7,17,949 410

4,360 412

7,04,075 813

9,514 9


6,06,436 1,556

19,933 528

5,82,993 2,070

3,510 14


5,89,153 628

10,802 1,111

5,62,701 1,691

15,650 48


4,66,590 3,415

41,184 475

4,21,378 2,906

4,028 34


3,43,793 184

2,646 416

3,36,058 596

5,089 4


3,37,449 274

3,642 266

3,26,822 515

6,985 25

Jammu And Kashmir

3,08,726 715

12,407 1,125

2,92,114 1,830

4,205 10

Himachal Pradesh

1,99,197 321

4,050 382

1,91,737 691

3,410 12


1,63,048 327

4,175 231

1,55,926 548

2,947 10


1,13,192 355

4,668 279

1,06,828 629

1,696 5


61,200 40

486 21

59,917 58

797 3


61,096 785

8,744 301

51,354 476

998 8


60,385 536

4,886 65

54,870 596

629 5


42,759 450

4,430 99

37,579 542

750 7

Arunachal Pradesh

31,938 290

2,849 40

28,934 326

155 4


23,854 101

2,972 229

20,423 327

459 3


19,649 38

552 20

18,898 57

199 1


18,659 209

3,239 67

15,136 273

284 3


15,899 268

3,637 45

12,191 312

71 1

Dadra And Nagar Haveli

10,473 9

61 2

10,408 7



9,297 61

484 36

8,768 96

45 1

Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,280 11

105 4

7,049 15


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