A new study suggests that the coronavirus vaccine can create memory cells that help your body recognize new COVID-19 variants, a sign that the vaccines could help us fight off mutated versions of the coronavirus.

The study — published in the medical journal Immunity — found that mRNA COVID-19 vaccines create memory B cells in individuals. These cells help recognize the coronavirus and any mutations.

  • The researchers found that vaccinated people who had been infected with COVID-19 and those who had not been infected with COVID-19 both had “high-affinity response against the wild-type” coronavirus variants and showed “significant neutralization activity and recognition” of those variants, according to News Medical Life Sciences.
This airport worker was infected with an unknown COVID-19 variant
Dr. Fauci warns a new COVID-19 variant could come soon

However, the vaccinated individuals who had not been previously infected with COVID-19 had a slow response to the variants.

  • The study said that understanding the threat of variants — and how well the body responds to them — could be helpful to policymakers who are deciding when to share new booster shots, per News Medical Life Sciences.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Bloomberg last week that a variant could show up in the future now that coronavirus cases are dipping. Variants could rise among the unvaccinated, which could then spread to the vaccinated population.

  • “There are many variants out there,” Fauci told Bloomberg. “The delta variant has a characteristic that it is so easy and efficiently transmitted from person to person, which is good for the virus, but bad for us, that it has actually crowded out all the other variants.”

So should you worry about potential variants on the way?

  • “As long as you have virus freely circulating in the environment in society, jumping from person to person, that virus, by the fact that it continually replicates, gives itself ample opportunity to mutate,” Fauci said. “And when you give it ample opportunity to mutate, sooner or later you will get an accumulation of mutations that will lead to another variant. So that’s the reason why we say, the best way to prevent the future emergence of variants that might be problematic. The best way to do that is the don’t give the virus the opportunity to freely spread.”