The germinal centre (GC) response is critical for the generation of affinity-matured plasma cells and memory B cells capable of mediating long-term protective immunity. Understanding whether severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection or vaccination elicits a GC response has profound implications for the capacity of responding B cells to contribute to protection against infection. However, direct assessment of the GC response in humans remains a major challenge. Here we summarize emerging evidence for the importance of the GC response in the establishment of durable and broad immunity against SARS-CoV-2 and discuss new approaches to modulate the GC response to better protect against newly emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants. We also discuss new findings showing that the GC B cell response persists in the draining lymph nodes for at least 6 months in some individuals following vaccination with SARS-CoV-2 mRNA-based vaccines.