Annalisa Birt of Portland, left, prepares for her vaccination from Marlene Ikeda at a drive-thru mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Portland International Airport, April 9, 2021. The clinic is a joint operation hosted by Oregon Health & Science University, the Port of Portland and the American Red Cross.

Annalisa Birt of Portland, left, prepares for her vaccination from Marlene Ikeda at a drive-thru mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Portland International Airport, April 9, 2021. The clinic is a joint operation hosted by Oregon Health & Science University, the Port of Portland and the American Red Cross.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff/ OPB

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Two recent studies conducted at Oregon Health and Science University give some answers to questions about variants and vaccines. One study shows that people who have been infected with COVID-19, and therefore have natural immunity, are still vulnerable to new variants. And the Pfizer vaccine can help protect people with natural immunity against variants. At the same time, another study showed that the Pfizer vaccine is less effective at offering protection against variants in general than it is against the “wild-type” strain of the virus that originated the pandemic. This means people will probably have to get booster shots at some point.

Marcel Curlin is an associate professor of medicine within OHSU’s infectious disease division and co-senior author of both studies. He says the hope is that we can learn to live with the coronavirus in the same way we live with influenza. We hear from Curlin and co-senior author Fikadu Tafesse, who is also an assistant professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at the OHSU School of Medicine.

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