New research shows promising signs that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines might offer protection for a longer time than previously thought. And that protection could potentially last for years
Health experts say this new information could affect the timeline for booster shots.
The mRNA vaccines are helping scientists unravel the inner workings of our immune systems. A new report in the journal "Nature" reveals the mRNA vaccines set off a persistent immune reaction that theoretically may last a lifetime.
"Because it goes deep down into the immune system and produces these antibodies and teaches us how to make these antibodies so it will last," said infectious disease specialist, Dr. Suman Radhakrishna with Dignity Health California Hospital Medical Center.
The findings suggest most people who get the mRNA vaccines may not need boosters as long as the virus doesn't evolve much. Antibodies wane, but the vaccine appears to teach so-called germinal cells in our lymph nodes to make more like it does with other diseases.
"These cells in the germinal center are kept there forever," she said. "And so whenever you need antibodies to be produced, say for example somebody gets chickenpox, you are immune for life. You get the measles vaccine, you're immune for life."
Researchers found people previously infected with COVID-19 have a huge response after the first mRNA dose. A second one does very little. Yet, the uninfected-vaccinated still enjoy robust protection.
"Natural immunity is great, but it's not worth the price, so get vaccinated," Radhakrishna said.
This study did not look at the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, but experts say it has benefits.
"It is still efficacious because it crossed the bar,' she said. "It may not have jumped way high, but it definitely did cross the bar. So the vaccine is still a very valid player."
Radhakrishna said if everyone did their part and got vaccinated, that would help eliminate the virus and its variants. Then, boosters wouldn't be necessary.