New study shows Pfizer vaccine could provide immunity for years, not months

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A new study from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis shows that nearly four months after one dose of the Pfizer vaccine, the body is creating cells with antibodies.

Researchers say this area of the immune system is called the germinal center, which is essentially a boot camp for cells and where cells learn how to fight off the COVID-19 virus.

“Those that are very high affinity ultimately get selected to become antibody-producing cells that can migrate to the bone marrow and persist for many decades,” said Dr. Jackson Turner, an immunologist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

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Dr. Turner, who assisted with the study, said the longer the germinal center response is active, the better the immune response. He said these results give promising indicators even though the vaccines are really new.

“The germinal center response tends to last between two to four weeks, but here we’re seeing a very robust response even out to 12 weeks,” said Turner.

The research is welcomed news for Memphis area doctors as well.

“We have real good data now that shows that the vaccines are going to be very protective,” said Dr. Manjo Jain, a member of the Memphis-Shelby County COVID-19 Joint Task Force.

Dr. Jain believes this data could reignite interest in the vaccine.

“I think studies like this bring confidence to the general population, especially those who may be on the fence about getting the vaccine,” said Jain.

Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis are continuing their studies on the vaccine and this immunity. They plan to release another study next year after reviewing patients one full year with the vaccine.

With promising research like this, Dr. Jain said there might not be a need for COVID-19 booster shots.