ROANOKE, Va. – Two new international studies show the immune protection from two doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine drops off after about two months.
One study found antibody levels wane quickly, especially among men, people 65 and older, and those with immunosuppression. The study also found that immunity lasts longer for people who get vaccinated after a natural COVID-19 infection.
In the other study, researchers found the waning accelerates after the fourth month, reaching just 20% protection in subsequent months. But protection against hospitalization and death remains strong, above 90%.
“These reports weren’t alarming to me and they weren’t completely unexpected,” said Carilion Clinic’s Chair of Medicine Dr. Paul Skolnik.
Skolnik added that our bodies’ immune systems include more than just antibodies.
“The other type of immunity, the cell-mediated immunity, is also very important and very effective,” said Skolnik. “It’s much harder to measure in the laboratory. And so many studies won’t measure that.”
Skolnik said these studies further prove why booster shots are important for those eligible: anyone 65 and older, 18- to 64-year-olds with underlying medical conditions or people who work or live in high-risk settings.
“I wouldn’t start worrying after two months. That six-month time point was chosen because that’s when we start seeing the increased hospitalizations and increased severe disease,” said Skolnik.
For those not yet eligible for a booster, he recommended they take precautions.
“The greatest risk is in areas with low vaccination rates. Southwestern Virginia is one of those places,” said Skolnik. “If you’re indoors, if you’re in crowded situations, or if you’re in venues that have lots of people, you need to wear a mask and you need to distance as best you can.”
To get more shots in arms, the Virginia Department of Health is opening a new Community Vaccination Center in the former Sears at Roanoke’s Valley View Mall. Folks can get their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd doses, plus booster shots.
“Our immune response goes down over time,” said Dr. Cynthia Morrow, the director of the Roanoke City & Alleghany Health District. “Our bodies sometimes need that little boost.”
The center will be open six days a week through December and can hold up to 500 people a day. It will be located in the mall during prime holiday shopping season in order to be easily accessible.
“We can really take this space that hasn’t been utilized and use it for good for everybody in our community,” said Morrow. “Not just for Roanoke-Alleghany, but for the entire region. We welcome everybody.”