COVID-19 booster shots may be needed, health officials say

Dr. Anthony Fauci said last week that vaccine protection would not be infinite.

NEW YORK — The world’s leading COVID-19 vaccines may offer lasting protection that diminishes the need for frequent booster shots, scientists say.

Scientists are still finding clues in how the body remembers viruses, but they say they need more research, and that virus mutations are a wild card. 

Critical studies are underway, and evidence is mounting that immunity from the mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna doesn’t depend exclusively on antibodies that dwindle over time. The body has overlapping layers of protection that offer backup.

Scientists do not yet know the correlate of protection, the level below which antibodies cannot fend off the coronavirus without additional help. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s leading infectious disease expert, told a Senate subcommittee last week that vaccine protection would not be infinite.

Pfizer and Moderna officials have said people might need yearly shots, just like with flu vaccinations. The companies plan to have some candidates ready this fall. But companies won’t decide when boosters get used. That’s up to health authorities in each country. Some experts say boosters may be needed only every few years.

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