As the number of people fully immunized against COVID-19 rises into the hundreds of millions, immunologists and infectious disease experts now are pondering a new question in the unfolding pandemic.
Namely, how long will vaccine immunity last, and will people who’ve gotten the jab need booster shots to maintain their protection?
It’s an important question, as waning immunity in the face of more powerful COVID-19 variants could cause future infection surges and, in worst-case scenarios, a full-blown return of quarantines and lockdowns, experts say.
A person’s immunity always drops to some degree following immunization or natural infection, said Dr. Greg Poland, director of the Vaccine Research Group at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
But will your immunity against COVID fade quickly, as it does with the flu or the common cold, or will it last longer as it does in diseases like measles or whooping cough?
“Antibody levels fall over time. That is true for every single vaccine that we give,” Poland said. “We’ve never immunized against coronaviruses before, so that question is really open-ended.”