Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Stephanie Contreras/Navy

What’s Safe to Do after You Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Just because you've gotten a COVID-19 vaccine doesn't mean you can return to your pre-pandemic lifestyle—at least not yet. An expert brings you up to speed.

As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout gains steam across the country, an increasing number of people are finding themselves with more protection from the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

But just because you’re vaccinated, doesn’t mean you can return to your pre-pandemic lifestyle—at least not yet.

“Your new vaccine will protect you from serious disease and will very likely keep you from getting COVID-19 at all,” says Emily Landon, associate professor of medicine and an infectious disease physician at the University of Chicago Medicine. “But you could still have a mild or asymptomatic infection and that could still set off a chain of infections and complications in others.”

Landon stresses the importance of reaching “herd immunity,” which occurs once a high percentage of the population is immune—either from having had COVID-19 or getting the vaccine. In that situation, cases are low, and they stay low because there aren’t enough susceptible people who can pass the virus around.

Until then, you’ll need to continue taking precautions (like wearing a mask and keeping distance) in certain situations. “Over the coming months, expect things to look more and more like ‘normal,'” Landon says, “but it won’t happen overnight and there may be bumps in the road along the way.”

Here, she discusses what you can do safely after getting vaccinated—and the steps you should still take to protect yourself and others:

Q: How effective is the COVID-19 vaccine?

A: Vaccines make you immune, not invincible. The COVID-19 vaccines that are currently available in the US provide remarkable protection against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. But, like anything, they’re not 100% effective.

Current data show the mRNA vaccines are about 94% to 95% effective. That means there’s still a chance people who’ve been fully vaccinated could contract COVID-19. While we know people who’ve been fully vaccinated won’t get as sick as they would have without a vaccine, you could still pick up a mild or asymptomatic case of COVID-19. If that happens, you’ll be able to spread virus to people who haven’t been vaccinated yet.

As the vaccine roll out continues and more and more people are vaccinated, the risk of catching a mild case or spreading it to someone else will decrease. We will also learn more about the strengths and weaknesses of the different vaccines in different situations.

Q: When does full protection against COVID-19 take effect?

A: While the vaccines provide a high-degree of (but not total) protection from COVID-19, they also take time to reach their full level of protection.

Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require two doses, which need to be given in specific increments. The first dose offers good protection, but you won’t get the vaccine’s full and durable protection until two weeks after your second dose.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine only requires one dose, but it also needs time to reach its full protective power. Don’t consider yourself fully protected until two weeks have passed from your final vaccine (Pfizer and Moderna) or your only vaccine (Johnson & Johnson).

Since they’re so new, we don’t have data to say how long the vaccines’ protection lasts. But based on what we know about coronaviruses and mRNA vaccines, we think you may need a booster in the future; we don’t yet know when or how often.

Q: When will we achieve herd immunity?

A: If we want to see post-COVID times come faster, we need two things: more vaccines and more people who are vaccinated.

Diseases need people to spread. So the more people who are vaccinated, the safer everyone is. While things are trending in the right direction, we know restrictions shouldn’t get lifted until we have lower rates of COVID-19 in our communities. And that won’t happen until a lot more people have access to, and are able to get, the vaccine.

Q: What can you do after you’re fully vaccinated?

A: Having a vaccine for yourself is great, and it certainly gives you peace of mind, even if you still have to take precautions.

The latest CDC guidance says people who are fully vaccinated can spend time unmasked and inside with others who are also fully vaccinated.

The national’s top public health agency also says that it’s safe, in certain instances, for fully vaccinated people to spend unmasked time inside with those who are unvaccinated—provided those who are unvaccinated are from the same household and have no high-risk health conditions. (If there’s unvaccinated people from more than one household, or an unvaccinated person has high-risk conditions, everyone should continue to wear a mask. And it’s best to meet outside.)

If you live with or care for people who can’t yet get vaccinated, you should still keep your unmasked contacts limited so you don’t bring home what may be a mild case for you, but one that turns into a serious illness for them.

As cases decline in your area and vaccination rates increase, close contact with others gets safer and safer, but the new variants could still bring another surge. We are nearing the end of this marathon, and now isn’t the time to quit early.

Cases are decreasing in most parts of the country, but they are still high. The mix of high case counts and growing vaccination levels makes an epidemiological soup that is primed to breed new variants that are resistant to the vaccines. We definitely don’t need that hurdle at the end of the race, so please keep taking care to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Just like you did at the start of the pandemic, make sure you stay on top of the rules and guidance in your community and talk candidly to family and friends about their and your risk tolerance as we slowly make our way out of this mess.

Source: University of Chicago

This article was originally published in Futurity. Edits have been made to this republication. It has been republished under the Attribution 4.0 International license.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.