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Effectiveness of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine drops after 6 months — but not by much

Emory University researcher Mehul Suthar suggests recent findings with the Moderna vaccine are a good step forward

A health care worker fills a syringe with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the Utah Islamic Center in West Jordan on Thursday, March 18, 2021.
A health care worker fills a syringe with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the Utah Islamic Center in West Jordan on Thursday, March 18, 2021.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine’s effectiveness lasts for at least six months before waning, but the drop off isn’t all that major, Emory University researcher Mehul Suthar recently told Boston 25 News.

Suthar and his research team at Emory’s Vaccine Center found that the immunity from the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine dips after six months, but not so much so that the vaccine becomes ineffective.

  • In fact, Suthar said the vaccine’s antibodies would likely linger in people for one to two years for the original strain of the coronavirus — not necessarily the variants.
  • “Does that mean we need a booster to help us get back to the awesome fantastic level? It’s unclear,” he said, according to Boston 25 News.

Troubles with variants

A new finding on the South Africa variant’s impact on the Pfizer vaccine may have an impact on the Moderna vaccine. According to a new study out of Israel, which has not been peer-reviewed yet, the novel coronavirus variant that was originally found in South Africa can evade and escape the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines uses the same mRNA technology to teach the body how to the defeated the novel coronavirus.

That said, Moderna said in February that it is currently starting trials for a third COVID-19 vaccine that would protect against the variant discovered in South Africa, as I wrote for the Deseret News.

The current Moderna two-shot plan “generates a weaker immune response against the strain from South Africa, though the company said antibodies in patients remain above levels that are expected to be protective against the virus,” according to CNBC.

Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said in a statement at the time: “Moderna is committed to making as many updates to our vaccine as necessary until the pandemic is under control. We hope to demonstrate that booster doses, if necessary, can be done at lower dose levels, which will allow us to provide many more doses to the global community in late 2021 and 2022 if necessary.”