The COVID-19 vaccines provide many important benefits like increased protection against the virus and getting our country back to a more normal way of life. Once you get vaccinated, what does this mean for mask-wearing, travel, social gatherings, herd immunity, and more? Drs. Maryrose Laguio-Vila and Robert Mayo provide their insight.
The vaccines approved by the United States FDA help protect you from COVID-19 and have shown to be 94-95% effective in clinical trials. But even after being vaccinated, you can potentially still spread the virus to others.
“One with immunity is much less likely to get sick or have complications, but in theory can still transmit infection. So, it’s still important to wear a mask around others who are susceptible,” tweeted Dr. Michael Mendoza, commissioner of public health for Monroe County.
Mask-wearing, hand hygiene, avoiding gatherings, and physical distancing are still important even for those who have received two doses of the vaccine.
“These safety precautions not only protect others from getting the virus that causes COVID-19 but contribute to flattening the curve, reducing pressure on our health systems,” explained Dr. Maryrose Laguio-Vila, infectious disease specialist at Rochester Regional Health. “Vaccination is one step in the right direction out of this pandemic.”
The vaccine only helps protect against COVID-19 for the person who gets vaccinated by helping the body build immunity. People within your household who are not vaccinated have not reached maximum protection.
“Anyone in your household who has symptoms of COVID-19 should seek testing,” explained Dr. Laguio-Vila. “If they are positive, they should self-isolate in their residence as recommended by the CDC. If they are negative, that could mean that are negative only at the time of testing. So, continued mask-wearing and physical distancing are still advised.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people who are fully vaccinated will no longer be required to quarantine following an exposure to someone with COVID-19 if they are:
We don’t currently have enough information from the vaccine studies to know if it will be safe for those who are vaccinated to immediately go back to normal activities.
Experts are continuing to study this and are working to understand more about the protection from COVID-19 vaccines before making a recommendation. For now, continued masking, physical distancing, and limiting the number of group gatherings remain important.
If you have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and want to attend an indoor gathering, please follow your community’s guidelines and limits on gatherings. Continue to maintain physical distancing with people who live outside your household, wear a mask, and wash your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer for at least 20 seconds.
“Even if it’s unlikely that you will get COVID-19 after receiving two doses of the vaccine, you are still susceptible to passing the virus on to others,” said Dr. Robert Mayo, Chief Medical Officer of Rochester Regional Health. “For example, touching a door handle that has germs and then shaking someone’s hand can spread the virus. You can also spread other germs related to the flu or other infections that can result in serious illness.”
Traveling is one of the top priorities for many people once they’re vaccinated, but the Centers for Disease Control currently recommend postponing travel and staying home to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
“Any amount of time in an enclosed area with people you don’t know if they’ve been vaccinated or not is still a risky situation, and that certainly includes an airport or airplane,” explained Dr. Mayo. “Travel still presents a chance that you can spread the virus to your family, friends and community.”
Herd immunity means that when enough people are immune to a virus, the virus can no longer spread.
“Herd immunity is an effective way to prevent the spread of the virus, but it can only be safely reached when a majority of a population gets vaccinated,” explained Dr. Laguio-Vila. “The vaccine is a great step in the right direction to returning to a normal way of life.”
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