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How much protection does the COVID-19 vaccine give?

Lakeview Hospital employee health care nurse Kerri Stone, left, administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Liz Barnes, director of critical care and an intensive care nurse, at the MountainStar Healthcare hospital in Bountiful on Monday, Dec. 21, 2020. The hospital received its first 500 doses of the Moderna vaccine and is one of the first health care facility in the state to distribute it to its front-line staff. Steve Griffin, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY – The jury is still out about how much immunity and protection the COVID-19 vaccine gives people. However, doctors say early results in the vaccine trials could offer a clue. 

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Eddie Stenehjem with Intermountain Healthcare believes vaccines offer the same duration of protection as a COVID-19 infection. 

“It looks like once you’ve been infected, you have a number of months of protection,” Stenehjem said during a Facebook Live event last week. “Likely at least six months, potentially longer.” 

But Stenehjem and other doctors say the COVID-19 vaccine is safer and gives better protection overall than catching the virus.

Another reason the amount of immunity is in question is because the COVID-19 vaccine trials are not yet finished.

Fact Check: What’s in the coronavirus vaccines and how does it work?

“The people that are in the trials are in it for two years,” Stenehjem said. “[Researchers] will monitor in that two year period…what does antibody levels do? And, also, when do they start seeing new infections in those people that were immunized.” 

One thing researchers are also paying close attention to are the COVID-19 mutations coming from England and Africa. 

Stenehjem said this is nothing new because viruses and bacteria tend to mutate. However, this also leads to other questions about how much the COVID-19 vaccine will protect people. 

He said researchers are looking for mutations in the spike protein, which is what humans develop immune responses to. 

That could determine how often people need to take a COVID-19 vaccine.

“Similar to flu, if we’re starting to see significant mutations in that protein, we may have to re-vaccinate with a different vaccine to accommodate those mutations,” Stenehjem said.      


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We, like you, have a lot of questions about the new coronavirus vaccines. That's why we're making an effort to find the answers to those questions.

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