COVID immunity could last up to year, including those who have had virus, study shows

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Two new studies show that people who have recovered from COVID-19 could have long-lasting immunity even after antibodies fade. Now, two local infectious disease experts are weighing in on whether or not booster shots are needed.

Earlier this week, Dr. Anthony Fauci mentioned that booster shots may be needed in eight months to a year after your second dose.

Two recent studies suggest that people who recovered from COVID-19 had immune responses to the virus long after antibodies faded, even up to one year later.

The findings may help put to rest lingering fears that protection against the virus will be short-lived. This begs the question, are booster shots still necessary?

Dr. Hana El Sahly, associate professor of molecular virology and microbiology and infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine, said there are studies underway to determine just that and what impact booster shots may have.

"It is possible that if the immunity wanes over time we can retain a degree of protection," El Sahly said. "Maybe from severe disease, maybe not at all. But all of this is to say that it is not a done deal, that we will need booster shots."

Currently, vaccine manufactures are conducting clinical trials and preparing for widespread distribution of COVID-19 booster shots, but ultimately it will be determined by the U.S. Health Agencies.

ABC13 asked the Houston Health Department if it had a plan for distribution, to which it responded with the following statement:

"If there is a scientific determination that booster shots are needed and they are approved by the appropriate agencies, the department's existing COVID-19 vaccine distribution strategy would serve as a blueprint."

Dr. Catherine Troisi, an infectious disease epidemiologist at UT Health School of Public Health, said the distribution infrastructure could be a challenge, depending on when and if the booster shots are needed.

"You know, getting people in for those firsts immunizations has required a lot of infrastructure and logistics and money," Troisi said. "Now, if a booster shot is required we got to get everybody back."

Both Troisi and El Sahly said another unknown factor is the presence of variants.

"I want people to remain calm," El Sahly said. "And keep in mind, that booster shots are only investigational at this point. We do not know if we need them, but to be on the safe side we and others are evaluating them in studies."

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