Belt and Suspenders — Why Being Vaccinated Doesn’t Mean you Can Stop Wearing That Mask. Sorry
I know some people who quite enjoy the face mask thing. They like the feeling of anonymity, or the ability to mouth expletives without anyone knowing.
But most of us will be only too glad to put them away. I for one am really hoping I don’t have to wear them through another Virginia summer.
Unfortunately, we’re not going to be able to do that for a while yet.
Vaccines Are on the Way
The U.K. and Canada have both approved the Pfizer vaccine and the U.K. has started mass vaccinations. While it’s going to take a few months to get through vaccinating everyone (mostly because it takes time to manufacture enough doses), we do know that we have effective vaccines that are going to help bring an end to this pandemic.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean you can get a jab and go out and have a wild party, and here’s why:
The three vaccines closest to approval require two shots a few weeks apart. Although Pfizer’s vaccine, at least, provides some protection after the first shot, you don’t get the full benefit until you have had the second.
You don’t want to be that person who gets the first shot, gets a bad case of COVID, misses their second shot and has to start over!
So, after shot #1, act as if you haven’t been vaccinated yet, because it’s not done.
Vaccines Take Time
The second thing to realize is that with all vaccines it takes time for your immune system to respond. For example, with the flu shot, you don’t have full protection for two weeks, although it’s more a dimmer switch…you are protected a bit more each day until it peaks.
Full data hasn’t been released on exactly how long it takes to get peak immunity after the Pfizer and Moderna shots. Astra-Zeneca appears to be the worst, I’ve heard 45 days.
So, after shot #2, act as if you haven’t been vaccinated yet until at least two to four weeks after the shot.
Vaccines Don’t Always Stop Spread
Now, here’s the really quite annoying part:
Vaccines can provide two kinds of immunity. One is sterilizing immunity where you can’t catch it, can’t pass it on. The virus stops with you.
The other is functional immunity. You still get infected, but you don’t get sick. You can still pass the virus on to others.
We don’t know for sure whether these vaccines give sterilizing immunity.
Now, don’t panic. Even if they don’t provide sterilizing immunity, this does not mean the pandemic will last forever. People who have been vaccinated will have fewer symptoms, and thus not transmit the virus as much. They will most likely not carry it for as long.
A vaccine providing functional immunity may also reduce the effective severity of COVID-19 from “OMG pneumonia” to “A cold.”
But! While not everyone is vaccinated who can be and while we still have high levels of circulation, this means that just to be on the safe side we will have to keep wearing masks and being careful about social contacts for a little while yet.
Vaccination levels will be another metric for when we can allow things like large gatherings again, and a vital tool.
But, sadly, don’t expect life to return to normal like an on switch once the vaccine is circulating. Expect more of a dimmer switch.