There is more and more evidence that even after you receive the COVID-19 vaccine you should still mask up and continue to socially distance. It takes time for the vaccine to take effect so it is very important to continue to practice the protocols that have kept so many safe during the pandemic.
Once you receive the first dose, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine says protection (from the Pfizer vaccine) doesn’t start for about 12 days. it takes time for you to develop some antibody response, and you get a partial immune response to the first dose. It’s estimated to be about 52% effective a few weeks later. Meaning you could still get infected even after you receive the vaccine, before you develop an antibody response. Even after the second dose, it takes a week or two to be protected, and then you have a 94% or 95% level of protection, which means 1 in 20 people who receive the vaccine could still get a moderate to severe case of COVID-19, and there is no way to tell who will still be at risk for contracting COVID-19 even after receiving the vaccine. So the vaccine provides a lot of protection, but doesn’t mean complete immunity.
Even though you have protection, experts are still unsure if you are at risk of being an asymptomatic carrier, which means you could still have the ability to carry the virus and spread to others. When the vaccines were tested they showed that they protect the recipient from getting sick if exposed to the virus. But, that doesn’t mean that person can’t carry the virus if they were exposed to it. You are less likely to get sick or develop symptoms, that we know. We still need more information to conclude if immunity through vaccination can also prevent being able to asymptomatically carry the virus and shed it. This is something scientists are currently studying and it will take time to do those studies. In December, Moderna submitted data to the Food and Drug Administration indicating that its vaccine prevented two-thirds of all infections, including asymptomatic infections. This data was a secondary finding from its testing and now Moderna is conducting a further smaller study. This information is promising that after getting two does, you could be protected not only from the illness but the infection itself.
Due to these findings, the vaccines are proven to be effective and valuable, but they only represent one part of the response and work best when matched with the preventative public health measures already in place. Physical distancing, wearing a mask, hand washing, and avoiding large and indoor gatherings until community spread is at a level that will allow us to return to normal is still very important. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends to continue to follow these protocols because there is not enough data to recommend that you stop. You should still get a COVID-19 test should you begin experiencing symptoms, even once vaccinated. Experts expect that you will likely be following these recommendations for months to come, until we cross the herd immunity threshold. To reach herd immunity, approximately 50-80% of the population will need to be vaccinated. This could take a while, as the rollout of the vaccine is moving slowly.