Moderna says COVID-19 vaccine protection expected to last at least a year

NOW: Moderna says COVID-19 vaccine protection expected to last at least a year

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- One of the big unanswered questions during the COVID-19 vaccine rollout is -- how long will protection last? Moderna officials may have answered that question during JP Morgan’s 39th Annual Healthcare Conference.

Moderna’s chief medical officer, Tal Zaks, said Monday from what they’ve seen so far, their COVID-19 vaccine is expected to provide immunity from the virus for at least a year.

Some doctors say they’re not shocked, but it’s important not to jump to conclusions.

“I would say that it’s important to continue to follow the science on this,” said Dr. Ben Weston, associate professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin and medical director at the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management.

“A lot of the data that would support these claims just isn’t widely available out there, and for the most part it’s because that data is becoming available as we go by day-by-day,” said UW-Health’s chief quality officer, Dr. Jeff Pothof.

Zaks said they’ll follow vaccine study participants until at least the one-year mark. They’ll try and add another booster shot to see how well it would extend immunity to COVID-19.

“We think there is an opportunity to boost especially the ones at high risk should you need it, but it will take time to generate data,” said Zaks during a conference webinar.

“What they’re doing is they’re looking at antibody levels in individuals who were a part of those phase 3 trials and they’re looking for deterioration or how quickly do those antibodies start to fade,” Dr. Pothof said.

Dr. Pothof says there hasn’t been much time since the vaccine’s become available, and there are also variations on how long immunity lasts for certain vaccinated groups.

“Those who are in their 70s or 70 plus—their immune systems just don’t mount as robust immune responses. We may see immunity that last a little bit less long in those individuals,” added Dr. Pothof.

He says it’s still good to know that the Moderna vaccine may provide protection for longer than a year.

“Worst case scenario would be something like the flu shot where on an annual basis you may need a COVID-19 vaccine,” said Dr. Pothof. “You know, best case scenario we’ll see this immunity last longer than a year.”

If a third shot a year later helps to extend it beyond that, then that’s great,” Dr. Weston said. “The longer we can have an immune population and avoid increases in disease burden, the better.”

Zaks also said during the webinar that he does not expect worsening adverse effects if people were to get boosted over time.

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