Are COVID-19 vaccines working? Here’s what no one is telling you

Scaremongering headlines and unrealistic expectations about the role of vaccines have exacerbated anxiety about breakthrough infections

On December 8, 2020, 91-year-old Margaret Keenan, a grandmother in the UK, received the first Covid-19 jab as part of a mass vaccination programme. Within 10 months, on September 10, 2021, about 233 crore people worldwide, or about 29.9% of the world's population, were administered both doses of Covid-19 vaccine.

Global studies clearly show that vaccination protects from hospitalisation and death. However, several questions still remain. How long will the vaccines give protection? Do we need to take a booster dose? If one had a prior infection, is it necessary to take the vaccine? The emergence of immune-escape variants of concern has only exacerbated these concerns.

Neither the crystal ball nor the armchair speculations are going to be of any aid here. Only by collecting data painstakingly, regularly measuring the immune response and conducting human and animal trials can we arrive at a reasonable answer for our worries. Here is what we have learnt in the past few months from studies conducted across the world.

First, a piece of good news. Putting to rest earlier fears that the protection conferred by the vaccine will last only for a short duration, three recent studies have shown that the effect of the COVID vaccine would most likely last the lifetime. With one caveat. The vaccine in the circulation seems to be effective against most of the current variants. It provides at least some level of protection against all of them. However, this vaccine’s efficacy will last only as long as coronavirus does not evolve into a new strain.

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