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VERIFY: Length of immunity after getting COVID-19 vaccine remains unclear

Seattle researchers expect that the COVID-19 vaccine should provide immunity for at least a few months, if not years, but the exact length of time is unclear.

SEATTLE — Immunity from the flu shot only lasts a year, but it lasts a lifetime for the measles. So, how long will immunity last once you get the COVID-19 vaccine?

A KING 5 viewer contacted us with the question after she received an email from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that gave a clear, but understandably unsatisfying response: "Both this disease and the vaccine are new. We don't know how long protection lasts for those who are vaccinated."

To try and get more clarity, we checked with the CDC and Dr. Alex Greninger, the assistant director of the UW Medicine Clinical Virology Laboratory. 

Greninger agreed with the CDC and told KING 5, "The tough thing here is longitudinal studies take time, right? These first vaccines, this is the first time we've ever done RNA vaccines in people. So that makes it harder to analogize."

The CDC did conclude, it wouldn’t expect a person to get re-infected within at least three months of getting the COVID-19 vaccine. But beyond that, it’s an educated guess.

Greninger concurred on that statement as well and said, "The immunity from the vaccine will probably last in the order of years, depending on what happens with this virus, from a mutational standpoint."

In individual text messages to KING 5, two other prominent, world-renowned virology experts, Dr. Larry Corey of Fred Hutch in Seattle and Dr. Peter Rabinowitz of UW Medicine, echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the unknown and targeting "six months to over a year," as the realistic hope.

But until scientists collect years of data – at this point, we can only verify – immunity should last a few months, and hopefully a few years.

But so far, we simply don’t know for sure.