What Does a COVID-19 Vaccine Mean?
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been discussion surrounding the making of a vaccine to help limit the spread of the virus. Now that we have two vaccines that have received emergency use authorization, there are many questions surrounding what having a vaccine means to ending the pandemic. Nazaninsadat Hashemi Khiabani, MD, an internal medicine physician with Adventist Medical Group shares what the COVID-19 vaccine means for the future of the pandemic.
If I get the COVID-19 vaccine, can I see my family and friends?
Dr. Hashemi: A COVID-19 vaccine is an exciting first step to getting back to the office, school, traveling and seeing friends and family. A vaccine gives everyone hope for the future and reuniting with those they love, but we’re not there yet. Although there is a vaccine, you will still need to take precautions. It remains unknown how long a vaccine will protect you and if you can still shed the virus even though you have been vaccinated.
If you choose to see friends and family, current COVID-19 precautions need to continue, including:
- Wearing a face mask
- Social distancing
- Frequently washing hands
- Covering coughs and sneezes with your elbow
The virus is still around and will be for some time even after the general public is vaccinated. Slowly, we will be able to begin gathering with those we love again. Even after that time, people may still be uncomfortable with going out in large groups especially depending on their risk status.
How long will we have to continue taking precautions?
Dr. Hashemi: For the time being, until the number of cases and infections begin to decrease, everyone will need to continue to take precautions. Depending on how long it takes to vaccinate the general public and see a decrease in the number of positive cases, masks, social distancing and hand washing will need to continue for the foreseeable future.
Should I get vaccinated even if I am healthy?
Dr. Hashemi: When you are able to be vaccinated, you should receive it as soon as you can. Even healthy adults with no underlying conditions should be vaccinated. You could still be at risk of serious health complications if you get COVID-19 and vaccination prevents symptomatic COVID-19. Since we are still in phase one of the vaccine rollout, it could be a few more months until the vaccine is available to the general public. Talk with your doctor if you have questions or concerns about getting vaccinated.
If I’ve already had COVID-19, do I still need to get vaccinated?
Dr. Hashemi: If you were already sick with COVID-19, you should still get vaccinated to avoid reinfection. We currently do not know how long someone is protected from reinfection once they have had COVID-19.
Will I have to get vaccinated for COVID-19 more than once?
Dr. Hashemi: The vaccines that are currently approved require two doses, several weeks apart. Currently, it is not clear if future doses of the COVID-19 vaccine will be needed. As more information becomes available, we will have a better understanding of how often the vaccine will need to be given.
The COVID-19 vaccine is a step in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go until precautionary measures can be stopped altogether. Until then, continue to wear your mask, social distance, wash hands frequently and cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbow.