MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – As thousands of Minnesotans line up to receive their first COVID-19 booster, discussions about a second booster starting this spring are underway.
We wanted to know: How long does the booster protection last? Will it be better to protect against the new variants?
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Jeff Wagner spoke to one of the top doctors to find out how often we’ll have to roll up our sleeves this year.
Amid the hustle and bustle across Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport Terminal 2 is a daily effort to better protect people from a relentless virus. Several people were receiving their booster shots on Monday afternoon.
How long does the booster protection last?
“I would say probably a few months,” guessed Lexei Wuorenma after receiving his recall.
“I hope it will last three months or more,” said Miluska Novota.
“I think we play this day in and day out like everyone else,” added Mary Drewews.
Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of infectious diseases at the University of Minnesota, gave an answer people probably didn’t want to hear.
“The question is how long this protection will last, we are not sure,” Osterholm said. “At this point, we will continue to conduct studies monitoring people to see both when their antibody levels drop, but also more importantly in the community, when do we see potential infections occurring. At what stage after your vaccination and your previous infectious status does this happen? “
What have we learned over the past year about the level of protection a person gets from those first two doses of the vaccine, especially now that Omicron is booming?
“Those first two doses are actually very important for starting the process of building your immune system. But they are hardly enough, ”Osterholm said.
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This is where the booster, or the third dose received in the fall for immunocompromised people, comes in.
“[The booster] then brings the status of the immune system to a whole new level, ”he said.
But what about an extra level on top of that?
Moderna’s CEO said last week that they are working on a second recall that will be available in the coming months.
Osterholm doesn’t think a second booster will be recommended for everyone. It also doesn’t expect people to get a booster twice a year. The focus is now on maximizing protection by creating better vaccines.
The first way: to modify the current vaccine so that it is based on the Omicron variant and not on the original strain. Moderna’s CEO said they are developing a vaccine in this way for it to be available this year.
The second way: to create a new vaccine that helps our immune system fight different strains of COVID-19 as they emerge. Osterholm said the current vaccine creates a response from B cells, or antibodies against the virus. The new version would create a T cell response, which he said would be more effective and longer term to better protect against the new variants.
“It will be a long-term process. It won’t happen overnight, but it’s a problem that we need to start now, ”said Osterholm.
It’s been about a year since the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine were released, a drug that was developed so quickly that it initially received emergency use clearance from the FDA.
WCCO asked Osterholm for his thoughts on the current pace of development of boosters and new COVID-19 vaccines.
“When 1,500 people die every day, when our health systems literally break down, and don’t just fold, nothing can be fast enough,” he said. “Nothing.”
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Even with a booster, doctors say there is no guarantee a person will not catch the virus. However, it makes the symptoms milder and better prevents hospitalizations.