The successful development and continuing rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination has been a monumental moment of hope in the coronavirus pandemic. Although it may eventually allow the world to return to a state of normality, it still may not be the only element that eliminates the risk of COVID-19 entirely. As the vaccination is still relatively new, scientists are monitoring the effect that the vaccination has on the general population. They believe that most of the vaccinations will reduce your chance of becoming seriously ill with the virus, but it is not yet known as to whether being vaccinated will stop you from catching and spreading the virus to others. Nor it is yet known how long the vaccination will provide this level of immunity for.
Speaking to The Guardian Avery August, professor of immunology at Cornell University, stated that “We know now the vaccines can protect, but what we haven’t had enough time to really understand is – does it protect from spreading?” Explaining that the SARS-CoV-2 virus can still colonize the respiratory tract and therefore vaccinated people may still carry the virus to others. Paul Hunter, Professor in Medicine at the University of East Anglia, added to the Huffington Post, “The vaccine does not prevent all infections and you can still be infectious even after vaccination with any of the current vaccines. Also, you can still get sick.” It is also important to note that for your own safety, the vaccinations need some time in the body to build a defense and protect you fully, you will not necessarily be fully protected immediately after your jab.
Dr. Peter English also explained to The Huffington Post: ‘“The level of protection builds for at least four or five weeks after the first dose, and for at least another week after the boost. So, until then, you are not as well protected as you will eventually be.”
Therefore, it is important that even if you have had the vaccination you still abide by your local social distancing guidelines – whether this is keeping at a safe 2 meter distance, wearing a mask, working from home, avoiding large gatherings and so forth. Universally, it is still good hygiene to wash your hands at regular intervals and avoid touching your face as much as possible, to avoid other infections too.
In the USA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is still recommending that: ‘fully vaccinated people should continue to:
- Take precautions in public like wearing a well-fitted mask and physical distancing
- Wear masks, practice physical distancing, and adhere to other prevention measures when visiting with unvaccinated people who are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease or who have an unvaccinated household member who is at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease
- Wear masks, maintain physical distance, and practice other prevention measures when visiting with unvaccinated people from multiple households
- Avoid medium- and large-sized in-person gatherings
- Get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
- Follow guidance issued by individual employers
- Follow CDC and health department travel requirements and recommendations.’
Some studies have found that there is a correlation between people receiving the COVID-19 vaccination, flouting social distancing rules and then a subsequent spike in COVID-19 cases occurs. The BMJ Journal reported: ‘earlier this month a study led by Public Health England of vaccination in the over 70s found a “notable” rise in covid-19 infections in people immediately after they received the Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca vaccine.1 Similarly, a study of Israel’s vaccination program, reported in February, found a similar spike in cases among people who had just been jabbed.2 It found that daily incidence approximately doubled after vaccination until about day 8.
A survey by the UK’s Office for National Statistics, looking at coronavirus and vaccine attitudes and behaviors in England in February,3 shows why these spikes may be happening. Among over 80s who had received their first dose of a vaccine in the previous three weeks, 41% reported having met up with someone other than a household member, care worker, or member of their support bubble indoors since vaccination, thereby breaking lockdown regulations.’
It is also important to remember that there are several different strains and mutations of the COVID-19 virus that scientists are still studying – some vaccines may not be as effective against particular strains. Therefore, maintaining social distancing and following your local guidelines is integral to keep yourself and your loved ones safe as governments and scientists alike gain a better understanding of how the vaccination is working against the spread of the COVID-19 virus.