The Only Way We’ll Know When We Need COVID-19 Boosters

Research can tell us only so much. The rest is a waiting game.

 
Midway through America’s first mass-immunization campaign against the coronavirus, experts are already girding themselves for the next. The speedy rollout of wildly effective shots in countries such as the United States, where more than half the population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, has shown remarkable progress—finally, slowly, steadily beating the coronavirus back. But as people inch toward something tantalizingly resembling pre-pandemic life, a cloud hangs over our transcendent summer of change: the specter of vaccine failure. We spent months building up shields against the virus, and we still don’t know how long we can expect that protection to last.

To keep our bodies from slipping back toward our immunological square one, where the virus could pummel the population again, researchers are looking to vaccine boosters—another round of shots that will buoy our defenses. Around the world, scientists have already begun to dole out these jabs on an experimental basis, tinkering with their ingredients, packaging, and dosing in the hope that they’ll be ready long before they’re needed.

When exactly that will be, however, is … well, complicated. Nearly all the experts I spoke with for this story said that the need for boosters is looking more and more likely, but no one knows for sure when they’ll arrive, what the best ones will look like, or how often they’ll be needed, assuming they’re part of our future at all. What underlies this uncertainty isn’t scientific ignorance: We know the signs that will portend an ebb in vaccine protection, and we’re actively looking for them. But their timing could still surprise us. The immunization process is much less akin to erecting an impenetrable fortress than it is to prepping forgetful students for an exam full of unpredictable questions. We can cram with flash cards for weeks, but to some degree we just have to cross our fingers and hope we’re still well studied when the pop quiz arrives.

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Πηγή: defenseone.com

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