TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Will you need to get a booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine? Outside of clinical trials, the first vaccines were administered in mid-December. 8 On Your Side explains how long that protection lasts.

Months after the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, cases are spiking across the country. That has some in the Tampa Bay area wondering how long the immunity lasts and whether another vaccine is better.

“When is a booster shot going to be required?” said Dylan Gorman. “Is it four months after you get your second dose? Or is it going to be a year or multiple years after?”

“In some ways, we’re still figuring this out,” said Dr. Jason Wilson, the associate medical director of the Emergency Department at Tampa General Hospital. “We’ve only had the vaccines now for about a year in research studies and about six months out in the general public.”

Doctors say if you have a healthy immune system and completed the recommended series, the vaccine worked. It generated neutralizing antibodies that fight off the virus.

As time goes by, researchers believe, the levels drop and a booster will take you back to where you were before, more antibodies and even stronger protection.

“There are people who got this vaccine in July of 2020 who still have high antibodies,” said Wilson.

He says due to the timing of clinical trials, we know you’re protected for at least a year and even with reduced antibodies, vaccines will most likely prevent severe disease but there’s a big if – research shows those with weak immune systems have not had a good antibody response.

“Especially our transplant patients have been pretty flat in terms of their antibody response even after vaccination,” said Dr. Wilson. “We’re concerned about those patients and we may just need to give them more vaccine.”

A small group of Americans do have weak immune systems. The FDA is expected to authorize a third vaccine dose for that group imminently.