As the vaccine rollouts continue in the coming months, friends and families are experiencing vaccination discrepancies. Your 70-year-old mom may have gotten her shot, but you didn’t get yours yet. Or maybe because you’re an essential worker, you’ve been vaccinated while most of your friends are still waiting for the next stage. What does that mean for your in-person social life? No matter your vaccination status, you’ll need to remain cautious, says Marcus Plescia, MD, MPH, chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.
“I have a friend who’s a physician who just got vaccinated, he was about to have his second dose and he said he’s going to go see his mother,” says Dr. Plescia. “His mother has not been vaccinated. She lives in another country. Although he will be vaccinated, he is being very, very careful and will get tested before he goes and he’s going to wear a mask while he’s there with her.”
Such precautions remain necessary because it’s still unknown whether or not you can catch the infection, be asymptomatic, and spread it after vaccination, explains Dr. Plescia. And with varied vaccination stages, we don’t all have equal protection. If you’re not vaccinated, you should stick to wearing a mask and social distancing even around vaccinated people.
“The vaccine, it helps in the broader scale, because it just reduces transmission. But from an individual point of view, the main way it helps is once you get it,” says Dr. Plescia. “Until we know for certain whether you could carry the infection, even though you’ve been vaccinated, it’s probably a good idea to not throw your mask in the garbage.”
The fact that you’ll still have to follow certain precautions shouldn’t make you wary of the vaccines’ effectiveness. The Pfizer vaccine is 95 percent effective and the Moderna vaccine is 94.1 percent effective. “That’s some impressive science,” says Dr. Plescia. “It’s almost a miracle to have something this good.”
Unless new information about waning immunity comes to light, Dr. Plescia says we’re in a really good place.
“As far as we know, once you’ve been vaccinated and particularly once we begin to approach herd immunity, then we really are out of this immediate situation we’re in,” says Dr. Plescia. “[In the future,] you’d be more likely to just see little pockets of COVID-19 and it would be occurring in communities where a lot of people had opted out.”
For now, continue to take the proper precautions, but enjoy the relief that comes with vaccination for you and those around you.
“In our cautionary tone, I don’t want to lose the excitement that people should be feeling about this vaccine,” says Dr. Plescia. “This is an excellent vaccine. People in queues to get vaccinated are getting probably one of the best vaccines that has ever been made.”
Watch a biochemist explain vaccines below:
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