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COVID vaccine is good for at least 6 months but a booster might be needed after that

"I hope, in the future, that we’ll have one vaccine that protects against all variants," said UTMB vaccine research Alan Barrett.

HOUSTON — Houston hospital leaders said they’re tracking an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, even though the City of Houston Health Department reports the positivity rate for COVID-19 has leveled off. The doctors said more children are spreading the virus. The CDC is now looking at the link between the spread and extracurricular activities. They said the highly contagious UK coronavirus variant is also helping to drive up cases.

RELATED: U.K. coronavirus variant spreading rapidly in U.S. | Connect the Dots

Those variants could be the reason people might have to get a vaccine booster shot in six months.

'''What we know right now, for sure, is that the vaccine lasts a minimum of six months,” Dr. Linda Yancey, an infectious disease specialist at Memorial Hermann Hospital, said.

In a Zoom interview with KHOU11, Yancey said the world is in a race between the vaccine and variants.

“We probably will only need booster shots because of the variants,” Yancey said.

She said the coronavirus is only able to mutate and form new variants when it’s actively infecting people.

That’s why Dylan Shotten, of New Caney, drove for more than an hour each way to get both doses of the Moderna vaccine in Brenham. The Montgomery County mother who works in healthcare was able to receive the vaccine before Texas expanded eligibility to those older than 16.

Shotten gave birth to her first child, a boy named Weldon, in January 2020. Now that she and her grandparents are fully vaccinated, Weldon was able to meet his extended family.

Credit: Dylan Shotten

“It’s such a small thing, but it meant so much,” Shotten said.

When asked if she’d spend hours in line to get a booster of the COVID-19 vaccine in six months Shotten said, “I’m OK with that.”

“Will you need a booster in six months?” Yancey said. “We’re not sure. But those studies are going on right now.”

That’s why Alan Barrett, who leads UTMB’s Sealy Institute for Vaccine Sciences, is urging people to get vaccinated. Immunization will help slow the spread, which lowers the opportunity and ability for the coronavirus to mutate.

“I hope, in the future, that we’ll have one vaccine that protects against all variants,” Barrett said.

But, creating one universal vaccine that can protect against all possible COVID-19 variants takes time.

“I think at the moment is, we’ll be having annual boosters,” Barrett said. “At least the next few years to maintain immunity.”

So, if staying vaccinated against COVID-19 means Shotten will have to get a booster, she’s OK following Yancey’s advice: “Keep getting vaccinated. Keep that mask on for now. Social distance. The finish line is in sight.”