Getting the shots doesn’t mean you can jump back into your pre-coronavirus life quite yet. Here’s why
Getting vaccinated doesn’t offer immediate protection.
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines appear to be remarkably effective based on the data currently available. The Pfizer vaccine is 95% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 seven days after the second “booster” dose, while the Moderna vaccine is 94% effective 14 days after the second dose.
Interim data from a late-stage human test of CoronaVac showed it is 65.3% effective, Indonesia’s food and drugs authority BPOM said – lower than figures in Brazil and Turkey which have yet to launch mass vaccinations.
The key there is that both shots require two doses to provide full immunity, and those shots must be spaced out quite a bit (21 days between doses for the Pfizer vaccine; 28 for the Moderna).
“It takes a while for immunity to build up,” explained Edgar Sanchez, the vice chairman of the infectious disease group with Orlando Health in Florida. Experts believe it is likely that the first shot alone offers some level of protection against COVID-19, but it’s not clear how much — or at what point that immunity boost kicks in.
“If you have been vaccinated, you can believe that your own risk of getting symptomatic or severe COVID-19 disease is significantly reduced,” said Eric Robinette, a pediatric infectious disease specialist with Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio.
But “significantly reduced” is not the same as nonexistent.
Even though both vaccines appear to be highly effective at protecting individuals against COVID-19, it’s still possible for a person who has received both doses to catch the virus.
It’s currently unclear whether getting vaccinated protects a person from spreading the coronavirus to others. That is something that is usually determined in vaccine research trials, but it hasn’t been sorted out because of the sprint to create COVID-19 vaccines. And researchers aren’t yet sure whether the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines protect against asymptomatic infection.
All of which means that an individual who has received both doses of the vaccine could potentially unknowingly become infected without showing any symptoms. And that person could then pass COVID-19 along to his or her contacts without realizing it — again, despite being vaccinated.
Masks and distancing are still necessary.
Because the vaccines do not offer 100% protection — and because it’s possible that a person who has been vaccinated can unknowingly spread the virus to others — it’s essential to continue following proven public health measures, like universal masking and physical distancing.
Experts say we’re likely going to be living with relatively easy, low-cost public health precautions — again, like masking, distancing and strict adherence to hand-washing — for some time.
Infectious disease experts have waffled on what it will take to reach herd immunity. Initially, they estimated that 60% to 70% of the population will need resistance to COVID-19 in order to stop it from spreading; now they’re saying it is probably more like 75% to 85%, or perhaps even higher.