Each week, OMRF Vice President of Research Dr. Rodger McEver opens “Adam’s Journal” to answer a medical question from Adam Cohen, OMRF’s senior vice president & general counsel and interim president.
Some vaccines last a lifetime. How come Covid-19 shots don’t seem to?
Dr. McEver Prescribes
While vaccine-induced immunity is complex, a key factor in long-lasting protection is how much a virus mutates.
After vaccination, the body produces blood antibodies and memory cells to fight a virus if we encounter it later. When a virus mutates to the point the immune system no longer recognizes it, we are more likely to be infected with the pathogen.
Viruses such as polio, measles, mumps and rubella do not change significantly. Early childhood vaccination is sufficient to train the immune system to fight them for years to come.
Unlike those more predictable foes, influenza mutates rapidly. So, our immune systems need new disease-fighting instructions each year.
The novel coronavirus behaves more like the flu. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is monitoring 11 variants of the coronavirus.
Mutations like the delta variant have made the coronavirus more contagious. Delta also shows an increased ability to evade our vaccines, which may lead to breakthrough infections.
The Food and Drug Administration currently recommends Covid-19 boosters for select groups. Initial coronavirus shots may not last a lifetime, but only time will tell if an annual vaccine will be necessary for everyone.
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