The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday that more than 108 million Americans have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, and that the country is averaging about 3 million vaccinations per day. But for how long will the vaccines be effective? Yahoo News Medical Contributor Dr. Kavita Patel explains.
KAVITA PATEL: Natural immunity develops after infection from SARS-COV-2, coronavirus, or a COVID-19 infection– all the same thing. But that’s really your own body’s kind of way of responding and recognizing that if you were to be exposed again to the virus, you would have antibodies developed. Natural immunity really helps target what infected you in the first place, which could be very different from the strains that we’re seeing today– or similar, depending on what you were infected with.
And the immunity developed from vaccines can actually respond– we call it a polyclonal antibody response, which means that there are multiple exposures to your body through the vaccine which you don’t even realize that helped trigger a very robust B cell and T cell response. Those are different kinds of antibodies, which also get developed after natural infection. But in the case of vaccines, think of it this way. You get more immunity at higher levels and to a wider variety of types of coronavirus spike proteins. So it prepares your body for almost any conceivable type of coronavirus, including the current variants that we’re worried about.
The current vaccines that are authorized in the United States, as well as those in the world, are all effective against the current known variants. When you hear that the vaccines are quote, “not as effective,” it’s when it’s compared to the strains that existed a year ago. But the antibody responses, even in the most potent strains, are still sufficient to overcome the effect of that strain.
So the good news is that any vaccine that’s authorized is going to have an effect on the current variants to prevent death, to prevent severe hospitalization. But of course, this is something that we have to keep a close eye on. And that’s why there’s talk and testing around what we call booster shots, to see if we need to alter the vaccines and give everyone a booster at some point this year.