How long does your COVID-19 vaccine last? That’s what authors of a new study set out to find out. Their research, from researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and published in Nature, studied the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and has revealed some eyebrow-raising results. Read on for 5 essential points you need to know—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You Have “Long” COVID and May Not Even Know It.
The study “has found evidence that the immune response to such vaccines is both strong and potentially long-lasting,” reports the University. In fact, it may last “years.” “Nearly four months after the first dose, people who received the Pfizer vaccine still had so-called germinal centers in their lymph nodes churning out immune cells directed against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Germinal centers, which form as the result of natural infection or vaccination, are boot camps for immune cells, a place where inexperienced cells are trained to better recognize the enemy and weapons are sharpened. A better germinal center response may equal a better vaccine. Moreover, vaccination led to high levels of neutralizing antibodies effective against three variants of the virus, including the Beta variant from South Africa that has shown some resistance to vaccines. Vaccination induced stronger antibody responses in people who had recovered from SARS-CoV-2 infection compared to those who had never been infected.”
“Germinal centers are the key to a persistent, protective immune response,” said senior author Ali Ellebedy, Ph.D., an associate professor of pathology & immunology, of medicine and of molecular microbiology. “Germinal centers are where our immune memories are formed. And the longer we have a germinal center, the stronger and more durable our immunity will be because there’s a fierce selection process happening there, and only the best immune cells survive. We found that germinal centers were still going strong 15 weeks after the vaccine’s first dose. We’re still monitoring the germinal centers, and they’re not declining; in some people, they’re still ongoing. This is truly remarkable.”
“This is evidence of a really robust immune response,” co-senior author Rachel Presti, MD, Ph.D., an associate professor of medicine, said. “Your immune system uses germinal centers to perfect the antibodies so they can bind well and last as long as possible. The antibodies in the blood are the end result of the process, but the germinal center is where it is happening.”
“We didn’t set out to compare the effectiveness of vaccination in people with and without a history of infection, but when we looked at the data we could see an effect,” co-first author Jane O’Halloran, MD, Ph.D., an assistant professor of medicine, said. “If you’ve already been infected and then you get vaccinated, you get a boost to your antibody levels. The vaccine clearly adds benefit, even in the context of prior infection, which is why we recommend that people who have had COVID-19 get the vaccine.”
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—wear a face mask that fits snugly and is double layered, don’t travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don’t go indoors with people you’re not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, get vaccinated when it becomes available to you, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.