Erin I. Garcia de Jesús is a staff writer at Science News . She holds a Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Washington and a master’s in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
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That immune memory is crucial. It turns on the whole protection cycle again if and when someone gets exposed to the virus once more.
Early trial being conducted in the United Kingdom hint that the answer for COVID-19 shots is yes.

SARS-CoV-2 : A coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan, China, in late December 2019. It would go on to cause widespread — and sometimes lethal — disease throughout China and many other nations. Its name reflects its close similarity to the original coronavirus known as SARS . That SARS virus sparked a global outbreak of disease in 2003.
Journal letter : L.J. Abu-Raddad, H. Chemaitelly and A.A. Butt. . New England Journal of Medicine. May 5, 2021, p. doi: 10.1056/NEJMc2104974.
Journal:​ ​​ R. Groß et al. Posted June 1, 2021. doi: 10.1101/2021.05.30.21257971.
News Release: Pfizer and Biontech confirm high efficacy and no serious safety concerns through up to six months following second dose in updated topline analysis of landmark covid-19 vaccine study . April 1, 2021.
Nearly everybody has been developing an immune memory to the coronavirus, studies are finding. Some antibody-producing cells continue to work long after the virus has left the body. That should protect people who encounter SARS-CoV-2 again. Ellebedy found signs of these cells in people who had recovered from COVID-19. Those with even mild symptoms had antibody-producing immune cells in their bone marrow 11 months after infection. Ellebedy was part of a team that reported this May 24 in  Nature .
SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19. As with the flu virus, the new coronavirus has been mutating . Newly emerging variants respond to the original vaccines. But there’s concern those variants will eventually get around the immunity that our bodies developed to the first versions of the vaccine. And that may mean boosters are needed.
flu : Short for influenza. It is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory passages causing fever and severe aching. It often occurs as an epidemic.
Here’s what we know so far about the possible need for booster shots.
So far, Ellebedy says, immune memory to SARS-CoV-2 has largely been following the rules — at least for most people.
Ebola : A family of viruses that cause a deadly disease in people. All cases have originated in Africa. Its symptoms include headaches, fever, muscle pain and extensive bleeding. The infection spreads from person to person through contact with infected body fluids. The disease gets its name from where the infection was first discovered in 1976 — communities near the Ebola River in what was then known as Zaire .
Over the past six months, a massive campaign has revved up to get COVID-19 vaccines into the arms of people across the globe. Doctors initially rolled out the immunizations to older people and those with underlying health problems. Now, as teens roll up their sleeves — and younger kids prepare to do so — some have started asking a big question: Will we all need booster vaccines?
Journal : N. Doria-Rose et al. . New England Journal of Medicine. Vol. 384, June 10, 2021, p. 2259. doi: 10.1056/NEJMc2103916.
To prepare for a future where people might need COVID-19 boosters, the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases launched a clinical trial on June 1. It will test the value of  mixing and matching COVID-19 vaccines .
immune : Having to do with immunity. Able to ward off a particular infection. Alternatively, this term can be used to mean an organism shows no impacts from exposure to a particular poison or process. More generally, the term may signal that something cannot be hurt by a particular drug, disease or chemical.
The good news: More than half of U.S. residents have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. As a result, U.S. cases and deaths have plunged to their lowest levels since March 2020.
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Companies are already testing booster shots to fight some variants. Some tests have focused on the so-called beta variant. It first emerged in South Africa. Early results from Moderna, for instance, hint that people who receive its booster shot against a viral protein in the beta variant develop antibodies to that variant. The antibodies sparked by this booster were better at stopping the variant from infecting lab-grown cells than were ones from people who got a third dose of the original vaccine.
mRNA : A type of genetic material that is copied from DNA. It carries the instructions for building a cell’s proteins.
COVID-19 : A name given to the disease that caused a massive global outbreak. It first emerged in December 2019 and is caused by a new coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2. Symptoms can include pneumonia, trouble breathing, feeling too tired to walk more than a few steps, fever, headaches, low blood-oxygen levels, blood clots and brain “fog.”
If it weren’t for the variants, “I don’t think we would be talking about potentially boosting,” says Ellebedy. “What we are seeing so far is that the vaccine is really robust. So why would we even need a booster if the virus doesn’t change?”
influenza : A highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory passages causing fever and severe aching. It often occurs as an epidemic.
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Once the virus gains a toehold, the body unleashes a wave of immune troops to fight it off. They include antibodies and so-called T cells. Antibodies typically attack the virus itself. T cells raise additional alarm bells or kill infected cells. Together, antibodies and T cells defeat the virus and then help the immune system form a memory of the virus, explains Ali Ellebedy. He’s an immunologist. He works at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
cell : The smallest structural and functional unit of an organism. Typically too small to see with the unaided eye, it consists of a watery fluid surrounded by a membrane or wall. Depending on their size, animals are made of anywhere from thousands to trillions of cells. Most organisms, such as yeasts, molds, health articles 2020 for students bacteria and some algae, are composed of only one cell.
immune system : The collection of cells and their responses that help the body fight off infections and deal with foreign substances that may provoke allergies.
resident : Some member of a community of organisms that lives in a particular place.
Whether and when people might need a booster shot rests largely on how long the body’s immune system protects against us becoming very ill. For COVID-19, this protection lasts at least six months, researchers say. It could possibly last much longer. Data on this have been emerging from people who were infected last year.
Growing evidence now suggests that vaccines offer similar — if not better — protection. If true, boosters might not be needed for some time. Right now, things look “pretty good,” Lyke says. People who got the Moderna vaccine still had high levels of antibodies six months after getting their second dose. Researchers shared the finding Pfizer’s vaccine remained 91.3 percent effective against COVID-19 symptoms after six months. Pfizer shared this in an April 1 news release .
develop : To emerge or to make come into being, either naturally or through human intervention, such as by manufacturing.
HS-ETS1-1 , HS-ETS1-2 , HS-ETS1-3 , HS-LS2-2 , HS-LS2-8 , HS-LS4-2 , HS-LS4-3 , HS-LS4-4 , MS-ETS1-1 , MS-ETS1-2 , MS-LS2-2 , MS-LS2-4 , MS-LS4-6
variant : A version of something that may come in different forms. Members of a species that possess some feature that make them distinct. A gene having a slight mutation that may have left its host species somewhat better adapted for its environment.
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activate : To turn on, as with a gene or chemical reaction.
United Kingdom : Land encompassing the four “countries” of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. More than 80 percent of the United Kingdom’s inhabitants live in England. Many people — including U.K. residents — argue whether the United Kingdom is a country or instead a confederation of four separate countries. The United Nations and most foreign governments treat the United Kingdom as a single nation.
ßprotein : A compound made from one or more long chains of amino acids. Proteins are an essential part of all living organisms. They form the basis of living cells, muscle and tissues; they also do the work inside of cells. Among the better-known, stand-alone proteins are the hemoglobin and the antibodies that attempt to fight infections. Medicines frequently work by latching onto proteins.
The big question is whether this approach will strengthen the immune response, says Lyke. She’s a researcher leading the trial. These scientists want to know what will happen if someone is given an mRNA vaccine — such as Moderna’s or Pfizer’s — and then is given a different type as a booster . “Can we increase ?” Lyke asks.
marrow : Spongy tissue that develops inside of bones. Most red blood cells, infection-fighting white blood cells and blood platelets form within the marrow.
Will we all need health articles 2020 for students COVID
Will we all need health articles 2020 for students COVID
Still, “we don’t know how any of these COVID-19 vaccines perform past the one-year mark,” Lyke says. Scientists are keeping a close eye on them, though.
It’s not a crazy idea. Mixing different types of Ebola vaccines or  HIV vaccines , for example, can trigger stronger immune responses than getting multiple doses of the same vaccine. The idea is that a second type of shot will activate some extra part of the immune system, Lyke explains. That way, she hopes, “You get the best of both.”
vaccine : A biological mixture that resembles a disease-causing agent. It is given to help the body create immunity to a particular disease. The injections used to administer most vaccines are known as vaccinations.
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infection : A disease that can spread from one organism to another. It’s usually caused by some type of germ.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases : Initially created as a small lab in 1887 at a hospital in New York City, it now is headquartered in Bethesda, Md. Developed to explore the new science of bacteriology, it became part of the National Institutes of Health in 1948. Today it works to better understand, treat and prevent all types of infectious and immunity-affecting diseases.
For now, no one knows what the best variant booster might look like, says Jerome Kim. He’s a vaccine scientist and director-general of the International Vaccine Institute. Its headquarters is in Seoul, South Korea.
antibodies : Any of a large number of proteins that the body produces from B cells and releases into the blood supply as part of its immune response. The production of antibodies is triggered when the body encounters an antigen, some foreign material. Antibodies then lock onto antigens as a first step in disabling the germs or other foreign substances that were the source of those antigens.
“No one knows” if booster shots will be needed, says Kirsten Lyke. She’s an expert in vaccine science. She works at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. But if boosters are needed, it shouldn’t be too surprising. People need a new shot in the arm every year to fend off influenza.
coronavirus : A family of viruses named for the crown-like spikes on their surface . Coronaviruses cause the common cold. The family also includes viruses that cause far more serious infections, including SARS.
Journal:​ ​​ J.S. Turner et al.  SARS-CoV-2 infection induces long-lived bone marrow plasma cells in humans.   Nature . Published online May 24, 2021. doi: 10.1038/s41586-021- 03647-4.
Available vaccines still protect people from the worst of COVID-19. health related articles 2020