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Covid-19 has completely taken over our lives — gone are the days, when we could meet our friends and family without a care. Physical workspaces have also given way to remote working, and although it does come with its advantages, we still miss going about our daily lives! At the end of the day, all our decisions today revolve around the virus. The need of the hour is to stay protected from this deadly infection, but is the covid-19 vaccine enough? And how long does it impact stay on? Worry not, we have the answer to all your questions from general physician, Dr Rashmi Sahay.
But before we head to the questions, it’s important to understand how covid-19 vaccines work. To begin with, when a virus like covid-19 invades your body, it attacks and multiples. It is this infection that turns into an illness. But our immune system tries its best to have a defence mechanism to fight this infection. Blood contains red cells, which then carries oxygen to tissues and organs, while white or immune cells fight infection.
When a person is infected with the covid-19 virus, for the first time, it does take time for your body to make and use all the tools it has to fight over the infection. But after the infection, the immune system remembers what it learned, and if you contract the virus the next time, the antibodies attack them.
Do the covid-19 vaccines work in the same manner, and what is it that we must know about them?
A: First of all, every vaccine has a different functioning, in order to provide defence from the virus. Although they all work on the same principle — the body has a range of memory T-lymphocytes as well as B-lymphocytes that offer protection against the virus in the future. It’s essential to remember that the body does take some time to produce these antibodies, after the vaccine. No wonder, we hear of many people contracting the virus, right after getting the covid-19 shot.
A: “The covid-19 vaccines available today induce a robust immune memory against the coronavirus. The vaccine ensures your immune system’s memory cells produce antibodies, in case the virus attacks your body. According to several studies, the memory B cells stay for at least 12 weeks, after people have got the second shot. The positive news is that authorised covid-19 vaccines are said to be effective against emerging strains of the coronavirus,” says Dr Sahay.
There’s another source of long-lasting antibody responses against the coronavirus through plasmablasts that reside in the bone marrow. It is these cells that continuously produce antibodies, and require no sort of boosting to maintain their effectiveness.
A: As the name suggests, booster shot is an extra dose of the vaccine that is administered to enhance the effects of the vaccine-induced protection. It is believed that the effects of the vaccine wear off over time. According to a study published in the journal Nature Reviews Immunology, the flu vaccine needs a booster every year, while tetanus and diphtheria requires it every 10 years.
A: As of now, NO. None of the health authorities across the world are recommending booster shots at this point.
“Although vaccine immunity might not last forever, it is important to understand that the effect of the vaccine is pretty impactful. A booster might be needed in the future, but we don’t know when. Researchers are still figuring out the best way possible,” says Dr Sahay.
A: Again, there’s still more research to be done, but some initial reports suggest that boosters might be essential for those who are immunocompromised. According to one study, 39 out of 40 kidney transplant recipients and a third of dialysis patients could not make antibodies after vaccination. There was another study that revealed that those patients with rheumatic diseases were on certain medication that was also suppressing the immune system. These studies were conducted after patients were fully vaccinated.