Based on the latest COVID-19 vaccine data, I’m now fully vaccinated. But the more you read, the more you wonder what that means.
I reach the status of fully vaccinated because Monday marks two weeks since I received my second COVID-19 vaccine dose.
What does it mean to be fully vaccinated? Well, we all want it to mean that you can’t get COVID-19 at all. We want it to mean we suddenly become immune to it.
Unfortunately, unlike the polio vaccine, the COVID-19 vaccine doesn’t seem to work that way.
There’s updated COVID-19 guidance to consider.
Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their vaccination guidance.
You’re fully vaccinated two weeks after you receive your second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson version.
The CDC says you can visit with others fully vaxxed people indoors without earring masks or social distancing. Many of us have come to hate those masks and the distance, even though many of us recognize the wisdom of both.
The fully vaxxed among us can also visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are “at low risk” of severe COVID-19 disease inside without wearing masks or social distancing. I find that one interesting. The vaccine doesn’t prevent you from passing the illness if you have it. But it should keep you from having severe symptoms if you do.
Then things get a bit more interesting.
If you’re exposed to someone who tests positive, you can skip quarantine and even testing as long as you don’t show symptoms.
You can also resume domestic travel without testing before or after or quarantining after travel.
The testing before and testing and quarantine after international travel also is waived for the fully vaxxed.
I don’t have plans to travel at the moment. I don’t feel any rush to travel because I think there are too many who aren’t taking the vaccine. Since some airlines are already opening up middle seats they’d blocked off for months, that makes air travel even less appealing.
Then you must consider ‘breakthrough’ cases.
In this case, the word breakthrough doesn’t refer to a good medical news. It describes rare but real instances in which someone who was fully vaccinated still came down with COVID-19.
Experts call those cases rare but expected. Dr. Anthony Fauci said back in March that breakthrough infections happen in any vaccination rollout when there so many doses being administered. ABC News reported that while the vaccines against COVID-19 are “highly effective,” they’re not 100%.
Yale Medicine breaks down the vaccines by the numbers.
Pfizer and Moderna vaccines boast around a 95% efficacy rate. That means 95% of people who receive the vaccine won’t get COVID-19 if they’re exposed. But for those 5% who do, the vaccines were 100% effective at preventing “severe disease.” That’s not perfect, but it might be as perfect as we can get at this point.
It’s worth noting the Moderna vaccine’s efficacy rate falls a bit to about 86% in people 65 and older. Fortunately, I haven’t reached that age, yet. I’m happy to report that my parents, who are over 65, received the Pfizer shot.
The single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine is about 72% effective in blocking COVID-19 altogether. It appears to be about 86% effective in blocking severe disease for the 28% who might get COVID-19 despite being vaccinated.
There’s already talk of a booster shot.
Apparently, I can look forward to another shot this fall. Moderna is already working on a booster shot.
Pfizer’s CEO said there will likely be a need for a third dose somewhere between six and 12 months. From there, you’ll need an annual revaccination, just like the flu shot.
I always take the flu shot…so that’s not the end of the world.
The booster shot, though, could provide additional protection against those pesky COVID-19 variants already in the U.S.
After an extraordinary year of this virus, it doesn’t appear the threat is going away for certain just yet. And with so many still refusing to get the vaccine, it’ll take that much longer for the country to reach herd immunity.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not all that likely to lower my guard just yet.