November 14. Boosters are a hot topic now, and our inbox is full of questions about them, especially this one: How long will they last?
But before we answer that, we should clarify who in the U.S. is currently recommended to get boosters and why.
“Some of us need boosters for two reasons. The first is that the protection against mild and moderate illness provided by the initial vaccination appears to wane over time, especially among older individuals,” says Jessica Justman, an epidemiologist at Columbia University.
“The second reason is that the delta variant is more infectious. This means everyone, even vaccinated people, is more likely to get exposed to an infectious dose of the virus and have it challenge their immune system. The booster helps your immune system mount an effective response.”
Now on to the question of how long boosters will last.
It’s possible, says Justman, that the months-long gap between initial doses of the vaccine and boosters will help the immune system maintain a strong response for a much longer period than the initial regimen did. But we need more data to have any sort of definitive answer on that, she says.
Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease expert at the University of California, San Francisco, says it’s important to keep in mind that even without a booster shot, the vaccines are still providing strong protection.
“The vaccines are doing an amazing job in preventing severe disease, even through the delta variant,” she says.