New data on antibody immunity against COVID-19, but the real story is a work in progress

The flu changes every year, and so does the flu vaccine. Will COVID-19 shots be the same?

By this time of year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wants everyone 6 months and older to have gotten a flu shot to help protect against seasonal flu. But with COVID-19, another contagious respiratory illness, it’s unclear what long-term timeframes will look like for vaccines.

“I’d love to predict for you when we’ll know,” said Dr. Aaron Milstone, M.D., M.H.S., a professor of pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and pediatric epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.

“One thing we that we can be certain about from the pandemic is, it’s been very hard to predict the future,” he said.

But he did refer to recently published Johns Hopkins School of Medicine data evaluating durability of natural immunity against the disease.

The studies are continuing on COVID-19 immunity, Dr. Aaron Milstone says, but it’s clear that the vaccines work. (Courtesy Johns Hopkins)

It appears antibodies produced after COVID-19 infection and after vaccination last about the same amount of time: 9 to 12 months, Milstone said. But the vaccine prompts significantly higher levels of antibodies, especially if the two-dose regimen happens after an infection, a new Johns Hopkins Medicine study suggests.

“The long-term durability of those who are infected and those who were vaccinated will continue to be followed over time as we get farther away from those events,” said Milstone, the senior author of the study.

Time and more research will also be needed to see how long antibodies will last after booster doses of vaccines.

Right now, everyone vaccinated against COVID-19 with a Johnson and Johnson shot can get a booster shot after two months.

With the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, additional doses are recommended for people who are immunocompromised just so they can reach the immune response others get after two doses. And then booster shots are recommended after six months for the immunocompromised, and for people 65 and older and those over 50 with underlying medical conditions.

People 18 years and older who live in long-term care settings also should receive a booster shot, according to the CDC.

“There are more data emerging to suggest that a third dose will further enhance the immune response. The durability of that third dose or booster remains unclear,” Milstone said.

What is known, and what is clear, is that COVID-19 vaccines work.

“It’s terrific that we now have vaccines available for kids between the ages of 5 and 12 years old as we’re approaching the holiday season,” Milstone said. “The wide availability of booster shots and vaccines for kids will really help add to the benefits of masking, staying home if you’re sick and washing your hands, to keep the community safe and allow us to hopefully have a great holiday season.”


More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.


Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

This content was republished with permission from CNN.

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