If, like nearly half of Americans, you've already received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, you may be wondering how long you're likely to be protected against the virus. The good news is that, for now, you can breathe a sigh of relief: the current batch of vaccines should protect you for at least six months after your second dose. The bad news is that emerging variants could threaten the path toward normalcy.
That's exactly why you may soon turn your attention to the next protective measure on the horizon: receiving your COVID-19 booster, a third shot tailored specifically to new strains of the virus. According to Corinne M. Le Goff, Moderna's chief commercial officer, you may receive the next dose sooner than you'd think. Read on to find out when you're likely to get your COVID-19 booster shot, and for more on upcoming vaccine changes, Moderna CEO Says There Could Be a Big Difference in Your Next Vaccine.
Moderna says booster shots may be ready by the end of this year.
During an April call with investors (via Insider), Le Goff explained that Moderna will soon focus its efforts in the U.S. on rolling out booster shots. In fact, the company believes booster shots may become available in the U.S. before the end of 2021. "It is likely that the countries that have already achieved high vaccine coverage are going to be ready to shift their focus to boosters in 2022 and possibly even starting at the end of this year," she said. More optimistic estimates suggest we could have a booster ready as early as late summer.
Le Goff added that this timeline would be unique to the U.S. and other countries with swift vaccination programs. Only five percent of the global population has been vaccinated to date, meaning most countries will continue to focus on initial doses, Bloomberg reports. And for more COVID vaccine news sent directly to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Third shots could make things "normal" for fall and winter.
Though new variants threaten to derail the progress that's been made, vaccines continue to be our best hope for securing safety and a return to normalcy.
"I hope this summer to get the vaccine authorized for a boost so that we can help people getting boosted before the fall, so that we all have a normal fall and not a fall and winter like we just saw in the last six months," Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel shared during in a recent interview with Insider. And for more on COVID boosters, Pfizer's CEO Just Said How Often You'll Need a COVID Vaccine.
Boosters will give greater protection against variants.
If three COVID shots feels excessive, rest assured that the benefits far outweigh the inconvenience. Insider reports that in a clinical trial, Moderna compared three booster options: a third dose of the original vaccine, a booster tailored to fight the B.1.351 variant found in South Africa, and a 50-50 mix of the two. They discovered that those who received the variant-specific booster launched an effective immune response that was roughly 62 percent higher than in the group that received a third dose of the original shot, Moderna said.
Additionally, the company has announced plans to bundle the booster with another common inoculation. "What we're trying to do at Moderna actually is try to get a flu vaccine in the clinic this year and then combine our flu vaccine to our COVID vaccine, so you only have to get one boost at your local CVS store…every year that would protect you to the variant of concern against COVID and the seasonal flu strain," Bancel said.
Without the boosters, we may be vulnerable to breakthrough infections.
As part of the company's clinical trial, Moderna tested volunteers' blood samples to determine how robust protection remained six to eight months after their initial series of vaccinations. The company reported via press release that 37 of the 40 participants still had detectable COVID antibodies, yet only half had antibodies against the South African and Brazilian variants. In other words, despite the vaccines being effective overall, this could leave a serious gap in protection when it comes to certain COVID strains.
So, when boosters become available—hopefully by early 2022, if not sooner—be sure to make that third appointment for the highest possible protection. Your immune system will thank you later. And for more on breakthrough infections, You're More Likely to Get COVID After Vaccination If You're Over This Age.