I’ve Been Vaccinated. Now What?
The good news: Effective vaccinations are now available in Indiana for folks 70 years of age and over, and they should become increasingly available for the younger folk among us in the next several months.
The not-so-good news: Even when we’ve been vaccinated our lives won’t immediately return to “normal.” That’s because vaccination against the coronavirus does NOT flip a switch from “not safe” to “safe.” Think, rather, of vaccination turning a dial from “not safe” to “safer.”
In other words, although vaccination lowers our risk of becoming infected, that risk is not zero. The currently available vaccines are 95% effective, which means that there’s still a 5% chance that we can be infected, and until many more of the folks in our communities have been vaccinated, plenty of viruses will remain on the loose. The hope, of course, is that if we are infected the antibodies our bodies produced in response to the vaccination will minimize our symptoms or keep us from having any symptoms at all (asymptomatic). Thus, the CDC and other health experts urge us to continue (or start) wearing a face mask and staying distanced until most of the population has been vaccinated.
There’s another reason vaccinated people should stay masked and cautious as they begin post-vaccine life. We don’t yet know whether vaccinated people can spread the virus if they happen to become infected. Time will tell, but for now there’s a need for caution. None of us wants to infect a high-risk person with the virus, even if the risk of doing so may be low.
So, what IS safer to do after we’ve been vaccinated?
Two weeks or so after receiving your second dose of the vaccine, when you should have achieved full immunity, it will probably be safer to do your grocery shopping, visit the post office, and run similar sorts of errands where you’ll likely not spend prolonged periods of time indoors with large groups of people. Even so, you should continue to wear a face mask on those outings and avoid large and/or lengthy indoor gatherings. Safety during this pandemic still is all about assessing and respecting potential risks.
What is safer to do once my friends and family are vaccinated?
If we and the people we want to see have all been vaccinated, it should be safer to socialize with them, including indoors for game nights and such. But being in large groups or traveling, when there’s no way to know if the people around you have been vaccinated, will remain risky.
What is safer to do once most of the population is vaccinated?
Once “herd immunity” is achieved – when sufficient numbers of people have been vaccinated, or have had COVID-19 and recovered, such that the spread of the virus among us is substantially curtailed – it will be much safer to move around in our communities (i.e., attend indoor and outdoor public gatherings, eat in restaurants, go to movie theaters, hold indoor church services, etc.).
Most experts believe that at least 70% of people need to have acquired immunity before “herd immunity” can adequately protect those who aren’t, or can’t be, vaccinated. The MAT estimates, given the current availability of vaccines, that the 70% threshold will likely not be reached within our larger community until, perhaps, August 2021. If additional supplies of vaccines become available in the interim, the time to achieve herd immunity could be reduced. Until herd immunity is achieved, however, the watch-word for all of us should be “caution.”
We can all do our part, in the meantime, by wearing our masks, washing our hands, avoiding risky gatherings, and encouraging everyone to get vaccinated when their age group is called.
Source: What You Can Do Post-Vaccine, and When. New York Times, Dec. 23, 2020.
Contact: Lynn Willis ( )
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