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How long are you protected by the COVID-19 vaccine?

New blood tests should show how long you are protected once you've received the vaccine.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — New blood tests may soon be able to tell you how long a COVID-19 vaccine will protect you.

Researchers are deliberately exposing volunteers to the coronavirus to see what level of antibodies is needed to fight off the virus. 

Once the research is complete, knowing how much antibody is in your body could help you figure how if your current vaccine is still working or if you need a booster shot, according to Dr. Stephen Threlkeld, an Infectious Disease specialist.

"It will be very helpful for us to know over time how much antibody is needed to ward off infection, to make you immune or resistant to disease," said Dr. Threlkeld.

Threlkeld hopes COVID-19 research at the University of Oxford will soon help answer that question. Volunteers who've already had COVID-19 are allowing scientists to expose them to the virus for a second time to help determine how much antibody is needed to ward off infection. The volunteers in the study are all healthy young adults.

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"Though there is a little controversy of doing purposeful infection, there is little question of what the value is," said Dr. Threlkeld.

"In general, we are asking people not to get their antibodies checked," said Dr. Alfred Kim, Washington University professor.

Dr. Kim said while people often want to get tested for COVID-9 antibodies, for the majority of the population - for now - avoid it. 

If you are healthy, you should assume the vaccine worked on you. If your body did not respond because you have a health condition or may be on certain medications, Dr. Kim said, at the moment, not much can be done about it.

"If you don't get a good response, or don't have a response, there is no mechanism in place to mitigate that. There is no booster strategy right now," said Dr. Kim. 

Dr. Kim added immune response is more than just antibodies. 

"Even though you don't have antibodies, you could still be protected because other aspects of the immune response have been generated. This is something we are going to be looking at in the future," said Dr. Kim.

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From his research, Dr. Kim has discovered that people on certain medications, such as b-cell depleting therapies or glucocorticoids for inflammatory conditions, can have a reduced response to the vaccines.

Dr. Kim said checking for antibodies at the moment likely won't provide you enough information when it comes to be protected from COVID-19.

Dr. Threlkeld hopes that will soon change with the research underway in England.

"We need some context as to what that number really means," said Dr. Threlkeld.

Threlkeld said try to resist getting an antibody test just for the heck of it. He said unless you have certain medical conditions, its not needed. 

Threlkeld also said that there are different types of antibody tests. If you have the wrong type done, you may not think you are protected, when you could be.