How long does COVID-19 vaccine last?
Experts do not know yet, as they are still studying vaccinated people to see when protection could be exhausted. How well vaccines work against emerging variants will also determine if, when and how often additional photos may be needed.
“We only have information as long as the vaccines have been studied,” said Deborah Fuller, a vaccine researcher at the University of Washington. “We need to study the vaccinated population and start seeing when people become vulnerable to the virus again.”
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To date, the Pfizer’s ongoing study indicates that the company’s two-dose vaccine remains extremely effective for at least six months and probably longer. People who received the Moderna vaccine also had noticeable levels of anti-virus antibodies six months after the second necessary shot.
Also, the antibodies don’t tell the whole story. To fight intruders, such as viruses, our immune systems also have another line of defense called B and T cells, some of which can cling to long after antibody levels have dropped. If they encounter the same virus in the future, those cells tested in battle may take action sooner.
Even if they do not completely prevent the disease, it could help reduce its severity. But exactly what role such “memory” cells could play with coronavirus – and for how long – is not yet known.
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While current COVID-19 vaccines are likely to last at least about a year, they are unlikely to provide lifelong protection, as with measles vaccines, said Dr. Kathleen Neuzil, a vaccine expert at the University of Maryland. .
“It will be somewhere in the middle of that very wide range,” she said.
Variants are another reason why we might need an extra photo.
Current vaccines are designed to work against a certain protein spike on the coronavirus, said Mehul Suthar of the Emory Vaccine Center. If the virus moves enough over time, vaccines may need to be updated to increase their effectiveness.
To date, vaccines appear to be protective against the notable variants that have emerged, although somewhat less than the one first detected in South Africa.
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If it turns out that we need another shot, a single dose could extend the protection of the current shots or could contain vaccination for one or more variants.
The need for follow-up vaccines will also depend in part on the success of global vaccination and on reducing the transmission of the virus and emerging variants.