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You might need COVID-19 vaccine shots for the next few years

One and done? Unlikely. Johnson & Johnson CEO says COVID-19 shots might be yearly requirements

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In this Jan. 31, 2021, file photo, pharmacist Diana Swiga fills a dead volume syringe with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, at a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination site at the Bronx River Houses Community Center, in the Bronx borough of New York.

In this Jan. 31, 2021, file photo, pharmacist Diana Swiga fills a dead volume syringe with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, at a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination site at the Bronx River Houses Community Center, in the Bronx borough of New York.

Mary Altaffer, Associated Press

Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky told CNBC Tuesday that people might need to get their COVID-19 vaccine shot every year for the next several years in order to fully combat the novel coronavirus.

  • “Unfortunately, as (the virus) spreads it can also mutate,” he told CNBC. “Every time it mutates, it’s almost like another click of the dial so to speak where we can see another variant, another mutation that can have an impact on its ability to fend off antibodies or to have a different kind of response not only to a therapeutic but also to a vaccine.”

What could happen

Scientists have previously said the novel coronavirus might never go away, and instead will become similar to the common cold, according to The New York Times. In fact, a study published in the journal Science said the virus could become “endemic,” meaning it will circulate at low levels and rarely cause serious illness.

  • “The timing of how long it takes to get to this sort of endemic state depends on how quickly the disease is spreading, and how quickly vaccination is rolled out,” said Jennie Lavine, a postdoctoral fellow at Emory University in Atlanta, who led the study, The New York Times reports. “So really, the name of the game is getting everyone exposed for the first time to the vaccine as quickly as possible.”

What about mutations?

None of that considers the fact that the novel coronavirus could develop mutations that defeat the current vaccines. In fact, vaccines could create viral mutations of the virus, depending on how effective the vaccines are, according to NPR.

  • “Many bacteria have gradually evolved the ability to survive even when walloped by a large dose of antibiotics. That problem has created new strains of deadly, drug-resistant germs,” NPR reports.

Paul Bieniasz, a Howard Hughes investigator at the Rockefeller University, told NPR he’s concerned about mutations being created between first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

  • “They might serve as a sort of a breeding ground for the virus to acquire new mutations,” he told NPR.

Context:

More than 138 million COVID-19 vaccine shots have been given out across 73 countries, according to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker. In the U.S., 44.4 million doses have been given, with an average of 1.53 million doses per day, per Bloomberg.

The amount of people who received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose surpassed the number of people who tested positive for coronavirus already, too, as I wrote for the Deseret News.