One of the questions we all ask ourselves is how long vaccines will protect against COVID-19. What does it mean to “only” immunize for at least 6 months?
COVID-19 vaccines have been shown in laboratory tests to be effective in protecting against infection. Initial evidence suggests that they should remain effective over time, but the truth is that it is not yet clear for how long they protect patients from contracting the disease, if it will be necessary to inoculate new booster doses in the future, or if vaccines will have to be modified to deal with emerging strains of the virus .
Pharmaceutical companies have had to develop and test their vaccines in record time, so today it is still necessary to carry out research that determines exactly how long we are protected from contracting the disease, as well as whether they are effective against the new strains.
Vaccine manufacturers are concerned that the coronavirus could end up being like the flu, requiring a new vaccine every year because of the rapid mutation of circulating strains and the speed with which immunity wears off.
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For this reason, Pharmaceuticals are conducting studies to see if current versions of the vaccine protect against new strains, and are also testing new versions specially designed to deal with these new variants of the virus.
The United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a report on April 2 with the results of a study on the efficacy of vaccines. The study looks at nearly 4,000 frontline workers vaccinated with Pfizer and Moderna, and reveals that messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines prevented 80% of infections after the first dose and 90% after the second dose.
Regarding the duration of protection, Pfizer announced a few days ago through a statement that His vaccine shows that strong immunization persists for at least six months. This is clear from the ongoing phase 3 clinical trial being carried out by the pharmaceutical company, where it has also been proven that it is 100% effective against one of the most worrying strains, that of South Africa, known as B.1.351.
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Although coronavirus vaccines are new, mRNA technology has been studied for years and we know that its action is especially powerful. As experts point out, the fact that Pfizer indicates that people who receive both doses of the vaccine maintain strong immunity for at least six months does not mean that protection does not last longer.
Susan Bailey, an allergist and immunologist and president of the American Medical Association explains that the worrying thing would have been if immunity had dropped to a third or half after the first six months. If not, it means that the protection remains strong for more than half a year. Scott Hensey, an immunologist and vaccine expert at the University of Pennsylvania, says he wouldn’t be surprised that within a year these vaccines still produce a strong immune response.
Moderna, meanwhile, is testing a new version of its vaccine to specifically protect against the South African strain of the coronavirus. “It is not yet clear whether this new modified version will be necessary,” says Ian Haydon, a communications specialist at the University of Washington who is testing this new version. “But it is being developed and tested now so that we have it handy.”