We are at the point in this COVID-19 marathon where the muscles in our legs are burning and our feet are begging for a rest. We have been dealing with this “new normal” for so long, and sometimes it has felt like there will never be an end to it all.
With vaccines now becoming more widely available (though still quite limited, due to supply), many people may feel that the finish line is just within their grasp. And what a wonderful feeling this is!
As more and more people receive the vaccine and as Washington State moves through the Governor’s new Roadmap to Recovery re-opening plan, it is important to remember that the race isn’t over. While we are absolutely looking toward the finish line, it isn’t the time to stop just yet.
There are still precautions to take, even once someone receives the vaccine. We are all tired of these safety measures, but they will continue to be necessary (at least for now). So why do we need to keep taking precautions? Here are some things to consider:
The vaccine is highly effective–but not foolproof.
At present, both vaccines available in the U.S. (Moderna and Pfizer) require two doses. These vaccines have proven to be extremely effective; the first dose gives 50 percent protection against COVID-19, while the second dose raises the effectiveness to about 95 percent. Of course, that means that there is a 5% chance that someone may still contract COVID-19 after receiving both doses.
And while the hope is that most—if not all—people receive the vaccine over the next several months, we know that there are some limitations. Both Moderna and Pfizer have not yet been approved for children (though Pfizer has been approved for people 16 and older). It may be some time until either a new brand of vaccine is approved that is recommended for children, or until Moderna and Pfizer finish clinical trials for minors and are granted approval for this population. So, until this time, children are still at risk of contracting the virus.
We do not yet know how long immunity lasts.
At this stage, experts do not yet know how long people are immune to COVID-19 after receiving the vaccine. Long-term effectiveness will depend on two factors: the duration of one’s immune response and changes in the virus over time. There is a chance that people will need to receive the COVID vaccine yearly, just like the flu, in order to account for any changes. Experts just do not know yet because the vaccine is so new.
That said, some research has indicated that the current vaccines are effective for at least 6 to 12 months. We will become informed in the coming months as more people receive the vaccine and as scientists track long-term effectiveness.
Experts do not yet know whether people can still spread COVID-19 after getting vaccinated.
The COVID-19 vaccines that are currently available are designed to keep people from getting sick. Clinical trials did not test whether those vaccinated could still spread SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
This means that someone who has received the vaccine is approximately 95 percent protected against getting sick but could still contract the virus and infect a friend or loved one who has not been fully vaccinated.
Everyone should still wear masks and social distance—even after getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
For all the above reasons, it remains crucial that people continue to take pre-cautions—even after receiving the vaccine. Continue to wear your mask when in public, continue to keep gatherings small and keep your distance, and stay home when you are sick. Yes, these precautions aren’t fun. And yes, we are tired and we want so desperately to stop.
The finish line is in sight and we are getting closer. In the meantime, continue to take precautions and make sure to get vaccinated when you are eligible. If you don’t know your phase of eligibility for the vaccine, visit: www.findyourphasewa.org. You can also call Skagit County Public Health’s Vaccine Hotline at (360) 416-1500, Mondays-Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
We will continue to update our webpage when new vaccine developments are available. Go to www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine for updates.
Keep Going! You’ve Got This!