A recent study suggests protection provided by the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines may last for years. The study, published in the journal Nature, partly focused on the germinal center (GC) B cells in lymph nodes of people who had received either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.
The study sample did not include people who had received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, which was created using an adenovirus. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were created using mRNA technology, which teaches cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response inside the body.
By examining fine-needle aspirates of draining lymph nodes in the study participants, the team found high activity among the GC B cells and antibody-secreting plasmablasts (PBs) for at least 12 weeks following the second dose of vaccine. The activity suggests the body’s immune system cells were poised to churn out new antibodies to continue protecting against coronavirus.
"It’s a good sign for how durable our immunity is from this vaccine," Ali Ellebedy, an immunologist at Washington University in St. Louis, who led the study, told the New York Times.
It’s the second such study published by Ellebedy’s team in recent months regarding duration of protection from COVID-19. In a study published last month, Ellebedy’s team found that nearly a year after people recovered from mild COVID-19, long-lived plasma cells had migrated to the bone marrow where they were continuing to secrete antibodies.
In a follow-up tweet regarding the study published Monday, Ellebedy was asked if he expects a similar B cell response with other vaccine platforms, such as adenovirus or platform-based formulas. Ellebedy said he did not know, but if the researchers were to look at antibody levels in blood samples as an indicator "then other vaccine platforms might need additional boosters but this is just speculation."
Over 153 million people in the U.S. are considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with Pfizer-BioNTech accounting for 178 million doses administered, and Moderna adding an additional 132 million doses given. Just over 12.2 million Americans have received the Johnson & Johnson shot.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.