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VERIFY: How long will immunity from the COVID-19 vaccine last? No one knows for sure

Researchers believe the immunity will last at least at least months, but they are still working to determine how long the vaccine is effective.

INDIANAPOLIS — One of the most common questions our VERIFY team receives about the COVID-19 vaccines is how long the immunity lasts.

Right now, health experts do not have a firm answer. It is just too early to know. As a result, it is unclear if people will have to be re-vaccinated every year, like they are for influenza, or if the effects of the first vaccination will last several years, like it does for shingles.

THE QUESTIONS

Among the questions we've received about the COVID-19 vaccine are, "How long is the immunity from the vaccine supposed to stay in your body?" and "Will we have to get a COVID-19 vaccination every year?"

THE ANSWER

Bottom line, no one knows for sure.

Researchers are carefully following people who have received each vaccine to determine how long the immunity lasts. Ultimately, it just takes time to get those answers.

At the same time, the CEO for pharmaceutical company Moderna said it is possible immunity from its shot could last a couple of years. 

SOURCES

To get answers to these questions, we contacted several entities:

WHAT WE FOUND

The CDC sums up the current answer to this question pretty succinctly. It states, "We won't know how long immunity lasts after vaccination until we have more data on how well COVID-19 vaccines work in real-world conditions."

The CDC also notes that medical experts are not sure how long natural immunity exists in someone who has had COVID-19 either, but it writes, "Some early evidence suggests natural immunity may not last very long."

In an October 2020 presentation, the CDC did say that data suggested it was unlikely a person would be re-infected within three months.

In documents provided to the FDA, drug-maker Pfizer says there is not yet enough data to determine how long immunity will last.

RELATED: Here's everything we know about the COVID-19 vaccine

In early January, Moderna's CEO, Stéphane Bancel, spoke with financial services group Oddo BHF. He said that while more information is needed for a definitive answer, "The antibody decay generated by the vaccine in humans goes down very slowly…. We believe there will be protection potentially a couple years." 

CNBC reports that in late January, Moderna's chief medical officer told the J.P. Morgan Healthcare conference that the company expects the vaccination should last at least a year. His presentation indicated that the company plans to start studying a one-year booster shot in July 2021.

So, the bottom line is that at this point, no one knows for sure how long immunity lasts for any of the vaccines in use in the United States. However, researchers and other medical experts around the globe are trying to answer that question.

RELATED: Here's how and when you can get the COVID-19 vaccine in Indiana