A range of new studies suggest that a COVID-19 booster shot may provide protection against future variants for many months, even years, The New York Times reports. A recent study posted on bioRxiv, for instance, suggests that a third Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna shot helps to produce antibodies that could be effective against yet-unseen mutations — even though the vaccines were "not specifically designed to protect against variants." "If people are exposed to another variant like Omicron, they now got some extra ammunition to fight it," Dr. Julie McElrath, a Seattle infectious disease physician, told the Times.
The new findings are similar to those found in the wake of the SARS epidemic that swept across Asia in 2003; one study found that people exposed to SARS at the time were still producing T cells — specialized immune cells — 17 years later. "Memory responses can last for ages," Wendy Burgers, an immunologist at the University of Cape Town, also told the Times. "Potentially, the T-cell response is extremely long-lived."