Pfizer, Moderna Vaccines Likely to Produce Long-Lasting Immunity, Study Suggests

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Scientists said the COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna set off a persistent immune reaction in the body that may protect against the coronavirus for years.

A health care worker prepares to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination event in Miami on May 28, 2021.

Ellebedy and his colleagues reported last month that in people who survived COVID-19, immune cells that recognize the virus lie quiescent in the bone marrow for at least eight months after infection. A study by another team indicated that so-called memory B cells continue to mature and strengthen for at least a year after infection.

“Everyone always focuses on the virus evolving — this is showing that the B cells are doing the same thing,” said Marion Pepper, an immunologist at the University of Washington in Seattle. “And it’s going to be protective against ongoing evolution of the virus, which is really encouraging.” Ellebedy’s team found that 15 weeks after the first dose of vaccine, the germinal center was still highly active in all 14 of the participants, and that the number of memory cells that recognized the coronavirus had not declined.

The results suggest that a vast majority of vaccinated people will be protected over the long term — at least, against the existing coronavirus variants. But older adults, people with weak immune systems and those who take drugs that suppress immunity may need boosters; people who survived COVID-19 and were later immunized may never need them at all.

 

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