The vaccines available for COVID-19 have been tested and proven to be safe and highly effective in preventing serious cases of the disease. One thing that isn’t known, however, is how long your immunity will last after you’re vaccinated.
CEO Albert Bourla of Pfizer (maker of one of the approved COVID-19 vaccines) recently stated that people will “likely” need a booster dose of the vaccine within 12 months of being vaccinated.
In addition, he and others, like Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky and David Kessler, the Biden administration’s chief science officer focused on COVID, have said people may have to be vaccinated annually for COVID-19, similar to how we get a flu shot every year.
As Bourla has pointed out, one dose of a vaccine is sufficient for some types of virus—the poliovirus, for example — but other types, like influenza, require annual vaccinations. COVID-19 seems to be more like a flu virus in that respect.
In fact, Moderna says it hopes to have a booster for its vaccine available in fall 2021. And the company feels that based on the way the U.S. has handled the vaccine rollout, they are well-positioned for shifting gears and administering boosters if they become necessary.
Get Vaccinated. Get Back to Life.
Research Continues on How Long Vaccine Protection Lasts
One of the reasons vaccine manufacturers are unsure how long people who are vaccinated will be protected from COVID-19 is that the vaccines have been available for less than a year. Consequently, there’s no data on their long-term effectiveness.
However, that doesn’t change the fact that there’s ample evidence of the vaccines’ near-term effectiveness. For example, the Pfizer vaccine is 91% effective at protecting people from COVID-19 and 95% effective against severe cases of the disease up to six months after the second dose.
It’s still very important that everyone who can be vaccinated get the vaccine as soon as possible. Shrinking the pool of people who are susceptible to the virus will help us get back to the activities we enjoyed before the pandemic.
Addressing New Strains of COVID-19
Viruses have the ability to mutate, or change their characteristics, over time. Already experts are aware of new “strains” of the COVID-19 virus.
These strains are requiring researchers to conduct additional studies to help doctors and drug manufacturers understand how effective the current vaccines are against them.
Initial studies by Pfizer and Moderna showed that their vaccines are highly effective against what are being referred to as the UK and South Africa variants. But like with the primary strain of COVID-19, more data is needed to determine how long vaccines will provide protection against these strains.
Even so, the existence of new strains is no reason to delay getting vaccinated. If anything, they make it more important than ever to get your shot or shots as soon as you’re able to.
Be Safe, Be Informed
To learn more about COVID-19, visit the Baptist Health COVID-19 Resources page. More information about available vaccines can also be found at the CDC.
Useful Resources and Next Steps