August 10, 2022

Coronavirus vaccine: How long will the COVID vaccine stay effective? Here's what doctors want you to know – Times of India


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The arrival of COVID-19 vaccines has been nothing less than a silver lining for the world suffering from the grim pandemic which claimed many lives and left many dealing with terrible complications, including long COVID.
While the aim is to get maximum people covered right now, there are also many looming questions that remain unanswered. Will a single vaccine take us to a COVID-free life? How long will immunity last? Or, will we need to get annual jabs, much like other vaccines?
We got experts to answer these queries for you
Given that many parts of the world are reeling from the discovery of newer strains and coronavirus mutations, it’s highly unlikely that we can expect the virus to fully go away, so soon. Some epidemiologists also believe that the SARS-COV-2 virus, which is responsible for wreaking havoc will continue to circulate in the world much like other bacteria and viruses, and, in all likelihood become an infection like flu or influenza. So, do we really get lasting immunity with the COVID-19 shot?
COVID vaccines work to boost up the body’s immune response against the pathogen by generating antibodies that recognize and evade the infection in the future.
However, since it’s a new virus, and relatively a newer vaccine, there’s no real data to suggest how protected a person would really be, after getting vaccinated.
According to Dr Susheel Bindroo, Head of Dept. of Interventional Pulmonology, Jaslok Hospital & Research Centre, Mumbai, vaccine generated antibodies, or artificial immunity is always lower than natural immunity. He says, “In what we have observed so far, people do get COVID to observe natural neutralizing antibodies wane in a maximum of 6-7 months time. For some with serious comorbidities, it could go away even faster. Therefore, with caution, people must remember that even artificial immunity, at this point in time, would last for a relatively similar period. We cannot expect vaccines to work like magic.”
Dr Bharesh Dedhia, Consultant Critical Care, Hinduja Hospital Khar also opines that vaccines, while remaining to be one of the most effective tools right now, may not be as effective as we think them to be. “Considering the manner of mutations, it can happen that people need booster shots or be subjected to regular antibody testing to confirm how strong immunity is. “
Experts also feel that the track record with COVID trajectory and cases is very confusing, so there’s no real way to ascertain what could happen post-vaccination. Till now, neither of the companies, be it Moderna, Pfizer or Bharat Biotech have doled out recommendations or advisory on the same.
We shouldn’t be considering a single COVID jab holy grail right now.
If the vaccine does work like other viral vaccines, which are subject to regular updation and booster shots, people would be requiring additional or annual shots every year. If the newer mutations continue to persist, regular shots or additional shots may be required.
Right now, companies like Pfizer-BioNTech are also working on testing the efficiency of a booster shot, which may help negate the risks associated with the new strains. Johnson and Johnson also recently won nod for a single-use shot which may be effective against the majority of strains.
Adding to this, Dr Bindroo also believes that some people, the ones facing a high risk of the infection, or those with frail immunity may need the use of booster shots more. “Old people, ones over 50 with comorbidities, children are prone to vulnerabilities and severity. Hence, they might require regular checks and advised repeat shots to safeguard themselves.”

Additional vaccine shots will only be required if the virus poses a threat to vaccinated people. Hence, it is possible right now that getting vaccinated against COVID-19 becomes a routine affair.
While the COVID-19 vaccine can protect you from the much-dreaded severity and mortality risk associated with the disease, it is still unclear if the vaccine could guarantee full protection with the shot. For example, the current make of the vaccines might not be that effective against the newer strains. There have also been reports of people catching COVID-19 (with fewer or no symptoms) after getting vaccinated.
As scary as that reads, doctors feel that it can be true for any vaccine. “It will take us at least a year’s time for the proper data (about vaccine efficacy) to come out,” adds Dr Bindra.
Experts also feel that the true effect of vaccination will only be seen once we achieve high immunization rates at the community level. Current evidence suggests that parts of the UK and the US which have witnessed high vaccination turnout are seeing a dip in the COVID wave.
Dr Dedhia also believes that the risk of reinfection or COVID-related complications go higher if a beneficiary is complacent.
“It takes the body a while to fully reap the benefits of immunization. It is said that it is only after 14 days post the second shot a person is considered truly vaccinated against COVID-19. So, if you don’t take your shots on time, skip a dose or let your guard off, chances are, you may get COVID-19 again.”
Different efficiency rates can also leave some vulnerable to the risks. Even if on the lower side of it, doctors do add that masks and distancing need to be mandated. What vaccines can truly help in reducing the severity and symptoms associated with the disease. Put simply, even if vaccines do not garner full protection, they may help make the disease ‘bearable’, protect the high-risk groups from the severity and lessen the load on the healthcare system.
Do remember that getting vaccinated is still a good bet to prevent falling sick from the disease, rather than suffer from dreaded complications. So, get your shot when you can, don’t be precarious and use masks cautiously.
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