Congratulations if you have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine! While it is good news, it’s important to know what to do after being vaccinated. The vaccines offer hope, but do not mean the virus can’t still affect you and others.
Until health officials say otherwise, everyone needs to continue with precautions. Avoid crowds. Wear a good mask in public. Maintain 6 feet or more of distance from people outside your household. Frequently wash your hands.
You can Still Get the Virus with the COVID-19 Vaccine
Getting the COVID-19 vaccination will help protect you from getting COVID-19. But the shots are not perfect. No vaccine is 100% effective. The clinical trials of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioN-Tech vaccines being distributed in the U.S. show that 1 in 20 people will still be unprotected. Some vaccinated people can still get a moderate to severe infection.
Also, it takes about two weeks for the immunity provided by a vaccine to make the antibodies to block viral infections. COVID-19 vaccines will take longer because they need two doses. Pfizer doses are three weeks apart. Moderna doses are four weeks apart. Between shots, people can still be infected and become contagious.
With the Pfizer vaccine, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in December found that protection starts 12 days after the first shot. That vaccine reaches 52% effectiveness a few weeks later. A week after the second shot, the effectiveness rate is 95%. Moderna reported 94% effectiveness two weeks after the second dose.
Generally, experts believe people will reach immunity within five to six weeks of receiving the first shot if they get both injections.
It’s important to note that more contagious variants of the virus have been circulating worldwide. So far, officials believe the vaccines will protect against these, but more studies are needed.
You May Still Spread the Virus with the COVID-19 Vaccine
The emergency approval for the vaccines only considered keeping the vaccinated from becoming severely sick from COVID-19. It is not known at this time if the COVID-19 vaccines prevent transmission to others.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC): “Experts need to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide before deciding to change recommendations on steps everyone should take to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.”
Also, most vaccines, including flu shots, prevent people from becoming sick. They do not protect from becoming infected and passing a virus to others. With other vaccines, it is possible to still spread disease because your immune system may not fight off the virus completely.
In addition, studies are still being done to learn how long protection lasts after the shots or if booster shots will be needed.
The COVID-19 Vaccine Shouldn’t be Your Only Precaution
According to the CDC: “We won’t know how long immunity produced by vaccination lasts until we have more data on how well the vaccines work. It will be important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to help stop this pandemic. Think of the vaccine as another layer of protection in addition to physical distancing and masks.”
To protect yourself and others, the CDC recommends following the same recommendations in place before the vaccinations began, including:
- Wearing a mask over your nose and mouth
- Staying at least 6 feet away from others
- Avoiding crowds
- Avoiding poorly ventilated spaces
- Washing your hands often
These steps are important to protect the vulnerable, such as those with cancer or others who cannot or have not received the vaccine.
People with cancer are more likely than others to become infected and die from the virus. The vaccine may not protect these people. Cancer treatments often weaken the immune system, making it harder to fight off diseases.
When Will Life Return to Normal?
Health officials are not certain how long it will take to achieve herd immunity and stop the spread of the virus.
According to the CDC, herd immunity means that enough people are protected from getting the virus because they’ve already had it, or they’ve been vaccinated. Herd immunity makes it hard for the disease to spread from person to person. It even protects those who cannot be vaccinated, like newborns. The number of people who need to have protection to achieve herd immunity varies by disease. Some experts estimate this may not happen until later in 2021 or even 2022.
It will take many months before a sizable part of the population is able to be vaccinated. In the meantime, precautions will continue to remain essential to reducing deaths and the impact of the virus, even for those vaccinated.
For information on Healthcare Network’s COVID-19 efforts, visit COVID-19 vaccines.