COVID-19 vaccine: One and done or an annual shot?
The flu shot is needed every year prior to or during flu season. Will the COVID-19 vaccine become a yearly vaccine as well or will it protect you from the virus forever? Edwin Hayes, MD, said there are things we can do to help make it a one-time vaccine.
“It really falls on us. Each individual who is getting vaccinated is preventing the spread of the virus. When the virus spreads it mutates, allowing one more opportunity for the virus to no longer respond to the current vaccine or treatment options and to become more contagious,” said Dr. Hayes.
“Every time someone hesitates to get the vaccine and every time we have a slowdown in our vaccine distribution, we are increasing the likelihood that the virus is going to propagate. When this happens, the virus is developing into something that we can’t stop after a single period and it will come back again.”
How can practicing safety precautions help prevent a yearly vaccine?
Not getting sick from the virus is important. “Even if you are young and healthy and would likely be okay, you are just one more point in the virus’ favor that requires us to have annual vaccines year after year. Your sickness is helping the virus to live on and spread,” said Dr. Hayes.
It is important to remember the fundamental advice when it comes to this virus. Wash your hands, social distance and wear a mask. “These precautions aren’t just about not getting sick, but about ending this epidemic permanently, and that is something we can still do,” said Dr. Hayes.
What increases our risk for needing a yearly COVID-19 vaccine?
- Vaccine hesitancy
- Slow vaccine distribution
- More COVID-19 cases
With COVID-19 variants, will the vaccine need to be tweaked or will you need a booster?
“It is possible that the mutations can pick up enough steam and get around the vaccines being given. If that happens, then the vaccine will need to be adjusted. While nothing clinical suggests this right now, there is still concern that we are headed in that direction if we do not mitigate COVID-19 sooner rather than later,” said Dr. Hayes.
Are there other options for the vaccine to become a nasal spray or oral medication?
Other options are currently being discussed, but there is little data available. “The idea with a nasal spray or oral medication is that the medication would be administered to you the same way the virus would enter your body – via your nose or your mouth,” said Dr. Hayes. “These types of a vaccine could be much easier to distribute with potentially less demanding requirements for storage.”
Should you be worried about the COVID-19 variants and whether the current vaccines respond to them?
Dr. Hayes said the variants that exist are what we expected – viruses mutate and we expect them to mutate. “We can beat this virus and the variants we have discovered with this vaccine,” he said.
“The important thing to remember is that you have a role in this pandemic and in ending it. Practice safety precautions and get vaccinated when it is your turn. That is the only way we will see an end to all of this,” said Dr. Hayes. “The vaccine will help us go on the offensive against this virus. We’ve been on the defensive side of things for too long now,” he said.
Get updates on the COVID-19 vaccine
Prisma Health’s COVID-19 vaccine timeline, distribution updates and other frequently asked questions can be found on our website. Please check back often for updates, which will be posted as they become available.