What about immunity over time – will boosters or yearly vaccination be needed? (UPDATED*)

Scientists are still trying to gather data regarding the need for additional vaccines. 

Data from Israel suggests that the effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine wanes over time, particularly in preventing infection and symptomatic illness. Israel began giving a third dose of Pfizer-BioNTech to people aged 60 on July 30, and has recently started offering a booster to all vaccinated indivduals 12 years and older. Third doses are given only to those who received their second shot at least five months ago.

On 8/18, the US Department of Health and Human Services put out the following statement on mRNA vaccines:

We are prepared to offer booster shots for all Americans beginning the week of September 20 and starting 8 months after an individual’s second dose. At that time, the individuals who were fully vaccinated earliest in the vaccination rollout, including many health care providers, nursing home residents, and other seniors, will likely be eligible for a booster. We would also begin efforts to deliver booster shots directly to residents of long-term care facilities at that time, given the distribution of vaccines to this population early in the vaccine rollout and the continued increased risk that COVID-19 poses to them.

For the Johnson & Johnson vaccine:

We also anticipate booster shots will likely be needed for people who received the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine. Administration of the J&J vaccine did not begin in the U.S. until March 2021, and we expect more data on J&J in the next few weeks. With those data in hand, we will keep the public informed with a timely plan for J&J booster shots as well.

There is controversy around whether the focus should be on providing boosters to Americans or if focus should be on getting more vaccine to developing countries.  On Monday, August 23, 2021, the head of the World Health Organization has called on countries to delay giving out booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccine until nations with low vaccination rates can inoculate more of their population.  There is concern that giving out booster shots in countries with already high vaccination rates could lead to more dangerous coronavirus variants appearing across the globe.


Updated: August 30, 2021