Ever since March 2020, the world has been hanging off the edge of its seat, wondering when the pandemic would finally be declared a thing of the past. Thankfully, as we’re able to look back on it now, it’s apparent that the whole situation came to a rapid close. For months we waited in agony for any sign of a vaccine, but when it was finally announced, the slower pace to which we were accustomed, began to accelerate. We began to see headline after headline, from: “Pfizer and Moderna vaccines approved for emergency use” to “Vaccines available for all citizens 16 and above”. The end is refreshing, as around 40% of the population is vaccinated and around 50% has received their first dose. Now, while questions about the virus itself have become less plentiful, inquiries about the vaccine have entered the forefront. One particular question stands out the most: Will annual booster shots become a necessity?
Unfortunately, as most things regarding the pandemic, the answer is unclear. The need for booster shots depends on how efficiently the body protects the individual from the virus, and more importantly, how long that degree of immunity will last. Scientists project that for most people, that duration will be somewhere around 6 months. Ali Ellebedy, an immunologist at Washington University School of Medicine, says “It appears that immune memory to the virus largely follows the rules, at least for most people.” Immune memory is when a body’s antibodies and T cells remember battling a specific virus in order to combat it better if the individual is exposed in the future. Studies are beginning to show that patients of the coronavirus do develop immune memory. Their bodies continue to make antibodies as protection, even long after the virus has worn off.
The vaccine adds on to this idea and offers even better protection to patients. Therefore, booster shots definitely won’t be an incredibly regular thing, but their presence is still predicted. From the sample of individuals who had their second Moderna dose six months ago, their anti-bodies still have high performance. Meanwhile, those who had Pfizer are equipped with an efficacy of 91.3% 6 months after the second dose. While this is all excellent news, it offers no insight into how well the vaccine will uphold after a year. More research and follow-ups with patients will be required until thorough information about booster shots can be released.