A vaccination record card and face mask on a table.

June 9, 2021

The payoff for getting vaccinated may turn out to last longer than originally thought—especially for those who recovered from COVID-19 and later were inoculated.

Two new studies show that immune antibodies linger in the bone marrow of those who survive COVID-19 and then are vaccinated. Indeed, their immunity appears to rise over time.

This may mean that many COVID-19 survivors are not likely to need vaccine booster shots in the next year, if not longer.

Those who have been vaccinated but never infected most likely will need booster shots, as will a minority of the infected whose bodies did not launch a forceful immune defense.

A small but significant study reported in the Nature Journal focused on those who had COVID-19 at least 7 months earlier and those who had not. All were later vaccinated.

A hero was revealed: Memory B cells retain post-infection antibodies while waiting silently and patiently in your bone marrow, ready to pounce only when needed.

But only people who had fought off the disease benefited from the dormant antibodies, as echoed in a study published online at biology research site BioRxiv.com.

Plus, the quality of antibodies mattered more than the quantity. Our blood would not course through our veins as easily if we had massive numbers of cellular soldiers ready to battle every perceived enemy.

Instead, when B cells find an invader, they increase in number quickly, creating an army of antibodies. Once the acute infection has been conquered, a few soldiers remain.

The reason protection from vaccines alone is less potent may be due to differing immune responses to immunization versus infection.

Another possibility is that the people infected with COVID-19 had an immune response that had matured and muscled-up before encountering the vaccine.

Researchers are still undecided about how often boosters will be needed.

Whether or not you’ve had COVID-19, vaccines are lifesavers, as many studies reveal. They fight off enemies and weaken the few that remain.

The information in this article was clinically reviewed by Dr. Linda Yancey and is accurate as of June 9, 2021.

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