I’m vaccinated against COVID-19. Now what?

March 12, 2021 | by Jonathan Pinsky, MD
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

It’s been a year since we had our first patient admitted to our hospitals with COVID-19. In the last year, thousands more have been hospitalized at our system with severe COVID-19 pneumonia.

Meanwhile, most seniors in our community have been vigilantly staying safe by isolating at home, wearing masks in public and avoiding gatherings. But now many are on the road to becoming fully immunized and eager to know what this means.

Fully immunized means it’s been more than two weeks after the second dose of a 2-dose vaccine or more than two weeks after a single dose of a 1-dose vaccine.

The three COVID-19 vaccines have all shown excellent protection in clinical trials against severe infection requiring hospitalization, 95-100% for the 2-dose Moderna and Pfizer vaccines and 93% for 1-dose Johnson & Johnson's Janssen vaccine. The efficacy of the Janssen vaccine for moderate or severe infection was 74% in the US and 66% worldwide. The efficacy of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine for symptomatic infection was 94-95%. There were no COVID-19 deaths or ICU admissions in anyone immunized in the three trials, a 100% prevention.

In the short term, immunity from vaccines provides a personal protection from getting severely ill or dying from COVID-19 if infected. In the long term, it provides a path back to normalcy by decreasing the number of people who are susceptible and lowering the risk of being exposed.

Masks and vaccines are protective in different ways. Masks are a physical barrier, preventing transmission of droplets and exposure to the virus. Immunity from vaccines clears the virus quickly before it has a chance to cause severe infection and decreases the level of virus that can be transmitted to others.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued new guidelines for those who are fully immunized.

  • Fully immunized people can visit with other fully immunized people indoors unmasked. This is considered LOW RISK because there is a low chance of an asymptomatic immunized individual being infectious AND there is a low chance of an immunized individual developing severe illness if infected.
  • Fully immunized people can visit unmasked with unvaccinated members of ONE other household if no one in that household has risk factors for severe disease. This is considered LOW RISK because there is a low chance of an asymptomatic immunized individual being infectious AND members of one household without risk factors are at a lower risk to get severe disease if infected.
  • Fully immunized individuals who have had a known exposure and are not symptomatic do not need to home quarantine for two weeks but should still wear a mask and avoid gatherings.

Guidance has NOT changed for:

  • Individuals who have received a vaccine but are not yet fully immunized.
  • Unvaccinated individuals, who should still mask when with others from a different household.
  • Fully immunized individuals visiting unimmunized individuals who have risk factors. The immunized should still wear a mask.
  • Individuals who have COVID-19 symptoms. Regardless of immunization, they should still isolate and be tested.

The guidance also may not apply to people with compromised immune systems, who may not respond as well to vaccines. Consult with your healthcare provider for your specific situation.

Until COVID-19 is a rarity, exposure to COVID-19 is a possibility, whether you're vaccinated or not. This is why it’s so important to continue our public health measures, including:

  • Wearing a mask in public or with others outside your household
  • Keeping your distance from others
  • Avoiding large gatherings

Fully immunized grandparents can now finally look forward to visiting their grandchildren. Friends and family that will be fully immunized can finally look forward to small gatherings this summer.

For the latest updates on the COVID-19 vaccine, please check EEHealth.org/coronavirus/vaccine.

Are you wondering whether to get the vaccine? Read our blog to learn more.

If you feel ill, Edward-Elmhurst Health offers screening options for COVID-19. Eleanor, your personal virtual assistant, can help you check your symptoms 24/7 and advise you on what to do next. We also offer Video Visits and E-Visits for COVID-19 symptoms.

For COVID-19 updates, please check EEHealth.org/coronavirus.

The information in this article may change at any time due to the changing landscape of this pandemic. Read the latest on COVID-19.

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