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Will People Have To Get The COVID-19 Vaccine Every Year?

ideastream's health team is answering as many questions about the COVID-19 vaccine as possible, with help from local experts in a range of fields. You can send us your questions with our online form, through our social media group, or call us at 216-916-6476. We'll keep the answers coming on our website and on the air.

Charlene from Hudson asked on Facebook, "How long is the projected protection? Will this become annual, bundled with the flu shot perhaps?"

Years of research go into figuring how out long vaccines protect against certain pathogens, said Dr. Thad Stappenbeck, chair of the inflammatory and immunity department at Cleveland Clinic's Lerner Research Institute.

For example, we know that protection from some vaccines people get as children can last a lifetime, while a new flu shot is needed each year, he said.

The coronavirus is still so new that researchers will have to monitor people for an extended period of time to determine how long protection from the vaccine will last, he added.

“It’s really only been around for the last year, so we’re gonna, essentially, be doing research on this now for the next few decades, trying to answer this question," Stappenbeck said.

The current virus could also mutate over time, he said.

“It could change so that the current vaccine, or your current antibodies, to the current strain that most of us have been infected with – now it’s something different, and we’d have to develop a new vaccine," he said.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended the first COVID-19 vaccine, from pharmaceutical company Pfizer, for emergency use authorization in the United States Thursday. The shots could be ready for distribution as soon as this weekend.

 

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