The scientific community has achieved an impressive feat, quickly creating a vaccine capable of offering a high level of protection against COVID-19.
Not only do the Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines all provide high levels of protection from getting COVID-19, but on the small chance you do develop the disease, the risk of severe illness and death is extremely low.
“Clinical trials show that the currently available vaccines and the vaccines under study prevent severe infection and death in almost all cases,” says Adam Brady, MD, from Samaritan Infectious Disease who heads the Coronavirus Task Force at Samaritan. “Even though it is not yet known how well these vaccines will work to prevent infection from various coronavirus variants, the vaccines appear to be effective at preventing severe illness and death in cases of the variants that have emerged so far.”
In Israel, where over 80% of the population over 60 has received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, a drop in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations have been observed in this age group.
“The preliminary results from Israel are very promising,” said Dr. Brady. “I find this very encouraging. It shows that the vaccine is working to not only prevent infections, but also prevent severe disease and hospitalizations.”
If you have received the recommended doses of a coronavirus vaccine, give a big sigh of relief; even if you do get COVID-19, it will most likely be a relatively mild case.
What Can I Do If I’m Vaccinated?
As more people are vaccinated, you may have questions about what activities are safe.
The key, according to Dr. Brady, is to continue to be thoughtful of others who haven’t been vaccinated and may be at high risk.
“Getting vaccinated protects you, and likely lowers your risk of transmitting the virus, but there are still some unknowns,” says Dr. Brady. “Outside of your home, it is still important to practice the public health measures currently in place since no vaccine is 100% effective.”
That includes wearing a mask in public, practicing physical distancing and avoiding large crowds.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released new guidelines for people who are fully vaccinated, and there’s plenty of good news:
- Fully vaccinated people can visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing.
- Fully vaccinated people can visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing.
You are considered “fully vaccinated” two weeks after you have completed the vaccine series. For the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines it’s two weeks after the second shot, or two weeks after the single shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
When Will Life Be Normal Again?
“Herd immunity” is what is needed to significantly slow the spread of the virus and bring life back to normal. For COVID-19, herd immunity is estimated to occur when between 70% to 85% of the community is immune, whether from vaccination or natural infection. Vaccination is the safest and quickest way to reach that threshold, says Dr. Brady.
As more people become vaccinated and develop immunity, cases and deaths will go down. This will go a long way to make sporting events, concerts, plays, art shows, religious ceremonies, graduations, birthday parties, weddings, baby showers, funerals, and all the other things in life that bring us together safely possible again.
In Oregon, health care workers began receiving the vaccine in December, teachers and childcare providers in January, and seniors in our community in February. As of the end of February, the number of people in our three-county area who have been vaccinated represents about 12% of the population, according to the Oregon Health Authority.
Is the Vaccine Safe?
Yes. (Visit the CDC for more details).
Though the clinical trials for coronavirus vaccines have been conducted on an accelerated timeline, every step was taken to ensure the vaccines are safe and effective.
“As a health care worker, I had the opportunity to become vaccinated and I really encourage other people to get vaccinated as they become eligible,” says Dr. Brady. “A return to normalcy isn’t going to happen overnight, but the good news is that we’re getting closer. I’m hopeful that if we all keep working together – to get vaccinated when we can and follow public health measures in the meantime – things will look much more positive in coming months.”
See Dr. Adam Brady’s answers to 10 common questions about the COVID-19 Vaccination.