You waited your turn, made it to a vaccine site, received your first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine — maybe even your second — and now you would like to return to some semblance of normal life, perhaps host a dinner party or get on a plane to visit family you haven’t seen for a year.
But experts say that even after receiving both doses and waiting the two-to-four weeks it takes to devwelop maximum immunity, the safest way forward is to continue masking, handwashing, social distancing and not gathering with people from outside your household. “There’s some promising data out there, but we still need more information on whether or not being vaccinated actually prevents you from carrying the virus and spreading it to others,” says Annabelle de St. Maurice, MD, MPH, co-chief infection prevention officer for UCLA Health. “You still need to be cautious,” Dr. de St. Maurice offers some answers to questions about COVID-19 and the vaccines.
“Scientists are continuing to study this, and early data are promising. We know that 95% of the time, you won’t get sick, but we need to continue to investigate how effective the vaccines are at preventing spread of the virus.”
“There are a few reasons. These vaccines were studied as a two-dose series, so we know that the two doses provide a 95% efficacy. If you just get one dose, we know from the clinical trial data that it provides some protection, but we don’t know if that protection lasts as long as if you got two doses. Also, when you get that second shot, it refines your immune system to be even more effective against the virus. Without the second dose, you may not have as strong of an immune response, and so for some of these variants we are seeing, maybe having only one dose could be even less effective compared to when they did the clinical trial data.”
“Some of the vaccines are more effective than others against some of the variants, so it really depends. Thus far, it does seem like there’s at least some level of protection from the vaccines.”
“We care about hospitalization and death, and all of the vaccines are effective against those outcomes. The key thing is, if you’re offered a vaccine, you should take it. Because, even though we’re seeing cases decrease, we certainly don’t want someone to be hospitalized or die because he or she is waiting for something better. All of these vaccines are excellent.”
“I think they probably have been sort of primed, but at this time, I recommend that they get both doses. Natural infection may not give you the same level of antibodies as vaccination, so that’s why it’s recommended that even if you had natural infection that you receive the vaccine.”
“We all have to pitch in in order to help get ourselves out of it. Until we have a significant portion of our population immunized, we won’t be able to go back to normal. The long and short of it is that, unfortunately, we can’t go back to normal right now, but eventually we will, if people just do their part: Follow public health guidelines and get vaccinated when you can.”