Head of UNC’s Moderna trial hopeful that COVID-19 vaccines will provide protection for years

Coronavirus

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – So much of the world hoped for vaccines that were effective for a long time in fighting COVID-19.

“It would allow us to take the vaccine stock that we have and distribute it more widely across the globe because that is, at the end of the day, going to help us, not just everyone else” said Dr. Cindy Gay, who leads the UNC School of Medicine’s Moderna clinical trial.

A new study published in the journal Nature said scientists found the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines don’t just trigger a short-term response to fight the virus. The vaccines also cause the cells in the human body known B cells to make antibodies on their own, meaning the vaccine could last for years.

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“So, in this case, the B cells are primed and ready. They recognize it immediately and can very quickly make antibodies targeting in this case that spike protein on the virus,” Gay said.

“The fact that the vaccines prevent severe illness and death, even with these different variants that have come up, is extraordinarily reassuring. It’s great if the vaccines prevent illness all together, but what we really need them to do is prevent people from getting severely ill and having to go into the hospital, and certainly prevent them from having to die from this infection.”

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Gay added that it will take much more studying of those who’ve been vaccinated for a year to know if they’ll need a booster. But, current vaccines are proving effective against the new, more contagious Delta variant.

That fact, coupled with this latest study, is all good news.

“I’m excited to see this data. I think it’s really great that they did it. I would think if you talk to most virologists and people who study vaccines that they would say this is really hopeful that maybe we’re not going to have to give boosters to everyone,” Gay said.

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