Following the tireless debate that we began to witness in March over wearing masks and the continued misuse of the social distancing mandates, we should not be surprised that continuing to adhere to these guidelines post-vaccination is questionable to some.
Yes, according to the Center for Disease Control, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 95% effective, but that doesn’t mean you should throw away social distancing measures just yet. Although it is highly effective, the vaccine is not perfect and health care professionals remain uncomfortable with “returning to normal” after the first couple rounds of vaccines have been distributed. Dr. Michael Saag, professor of medicine at the University of Alabama, compared the pandemic to a wildfire, saying the vaccines take fuel out of the fire.
The small chance of getting COVID-19 after receiving the vaccination continues to grow as cases are still on the surge within many counties, especially Humboldt. On Jan. 26, in a virtual meeting of the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, they indicated that although the state has lifted stay-at-home orders, Humboldt County is still in the purple tier and is expected to stay there for several weeks.
In a new model released by the CDC, we see that around 60% of new COVID-19 cases have been linked to asymptomatic spread. The concern of scientists is that those who have been vaccinated could potentially still have the ability to spread the virus, even if they are not likely to get sick themselves. The common misconception is that once you are vaccinated, you are immune to the virus, but there is not enough evidence that suggests this to be true.
“If they were asymptomatic but equally contagious, then that’s going to have quite an impact on the epidemic,” said Richard Menzies, an epidemiologist who directs the McGill International TB Centre in light of the new CDC model addressing asymptomatic spread. Dr. David Ho, a virologist working on developing monoclonal antibody therapies for COVID-19 at Columbia University added that it sometimes takes up to one month, or slightly longer, for protective immunity to set in after vaccination.
It is especially important during this time that those who’ve been vaccinated continue to wear a mask and adhere to social distancing guidelines. As we move through the following weeks, to ensure the effectiveness of newer vaccinations, those who are already vaccinated have an important role.
Since vaccine distribution began in the U.S. on Dec. 4, the CDC’s daily data tracker shows that we have administered more than 30 million doses as of Monday, Feb. 1. In order to achieve herd immunity through vaccinations, experts believe 75-80% of the population or more would have to be vaccinated.
Vaccinations are massively important in combating COVID-19, but simply administering doses to the public is not going to be enough in ending the pandemic. The best way to ensure that we are doing our part for our community is to continue adhering to mandatory state guidelines: wear a mask, wash your hands and keep your distance.