If You Got This Vaccine, You May Never Need a Booster, New Study Says
New research suggests these shots may give you lifetime immunity to COVID.
It wasn't long after the first COVID vaccines began going into arms that experts started talking about the potential need for a follow-up booster shot to bolster immunity and help protect against new, possibly more nefarious variants. For months, doctors, public health experts, and those behind the pharmaceutical companies that created the vaccines have said an additional dose was likely going to be necessary—the only question was when. Now, a new study suggests that people who got certain vaccines may never need a booster shot.
A June 28 study published in the journal Nature found evidence that suggests that the two-dose regimens of the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines result in a persistent long-term immune response that's likely to protect against COVID for years, maybe even forever. "It's a good sign for how durable our immunity is from this vaccine," Ali Ellebedy, PhD, who led the study, told The New York Times.
The researchers believe that vaccinated people with average immune systems will only need booster shots in the event that the virus mutates in a way that the current vaccines are unable to protect against. "Anything that would actually require a booster would be variant-based, not based on waning of immunity," Deepta Bhattacharya, PhD, an immunologist at the University of Arizona, told The New York Times. "I just don't see that happening."
Even if the majority of people need a booster due to a new variant, researchers say people who had COVID, recovered, and then got vaccinated may still not need boosters in their lifetimes.
The only people who may be outliers are those with compromised immunity. Vaccinated people with an autoimmune disease or those who take medication that suppresses their immune systems may need boosters to strengthen their response, which could be dulled by their condition or drugs.
The study did not look into how long the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will protect people from COVID. However, experts don't hold out as much hope for the one-dose vaccine's long-term durability. Ellebedy told The New York Times that he expects the immune response to Johnson & Johnson to be less durable than that of Pfizer and Moderna. In fact, some experts believe a booster is needed now to protect recipients from the Delta variant of the virus—a handful of them have already gotten boosters of Pfizer or Moderna to strengthen immunity.
Compared to those who originally got the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, "there's no doubt that the people who receive the J&J vaccine are less protected against disease," Stanford professor Michael Lin, Phd, told Reuters. If you received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, he said "from the principle of taking easy steps to prevent really bad outcomes, [getting a booster] is really a no-brainer."
Angela Rasmussen, PhD, a researcher at the University of Saskatchewan's Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization, recently encouraged her Twitter followers who received the Johnson & Johnson shot to "strongly consider" getting a booster shot of an mRNA vaccine. She stressed that this is especially important "if you live in a community with overall low vaccination," even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hasn't advised that this is necessary yet.