While vaccines for the coronavirus roll out across the U.S. you may be wondering if an annual COVID-19 vaccine is on the horizon? Most vaccines provide protection for a certain length of time, with immunity ranging from a few months to years.
Here two infectious disease experts provide some light on the potential of COVID-19 vaccines being here to stay.
Dr. Prathit Kulkarni, assistant professor of medicine–infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine, says the duration of immunity provided by COVID-19 vaccination is currently unknown but this is being actively investigated at the moment.
“It is theoretically possible that additional vaccinations might be required if the virus changes sufficiently enough over time to evade immunity provided by the current vaccine,” Kulkarni explained.
Dr. Robert Atmar, a professor of infectious disease at Baylor College of Medicine and physician at Ben Taub Hospital, says it is too early to tell what is going to happen with SARS-CoV-2 as the virus circulates around the world and persons develop some immunity, but the virus is likely going to continue to infect people at some level even after widespread immunity (based upon prior infection or vaccination) occurs.
“A booster dose could be administered to increase immunity to the virus overall, or the purpose of the booster could be to expand immunity to other ‘drifted’ strains that emerge over time (like the South Africa strain),” Dr. Atmar said.
Dr. Kulkarni is hopeful that society can gradually return to more normal, pre-pandemic life, and cases of SARS-CoV-2 will be much less common than they are now.
“For the time being, everyone should continue the usual public health recommendations even after vaccination (universal masking and physical distancing outside the home, avoiding large crowds, and frequent hand hygiene).”
Nearly 32.8 million doses have been administered in the U.S. as of Tuesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, just 6 million people have received the required second dose of the vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna.
This week the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) announced that the state will receive over 500,000 first doses of COVID-19 vaccine, and the state is ordering 188,225 doses that are intended as the second dose for Texans who were vaccinated a few weeks ago.