Vaccine distribution is well under way across the country. As of March 11, 1,103,353 Minnesotans have gotten at least one vaccine dosage (615,432 who have completed their vaccine series). Experts estimate that 70% of the population would have to be vaccinated for herd immunity to be achieved, and so far only 3% of Minnesotans have been vaccinated. Clearly, both the U.S. and Minnesotans are far from being able to return to normal life.
There are several reasons to still take precautions like wearing a mask, social distancing, and limiting gatherings indoors even after being vaccinated. Dr David Ho, a virologist at Columbia University, said that, “the protective effect of a vaccine may take at least one month, if not slightly longer.” Essentially, if you are vaccinated, your immune system won’t be prepared to fight off the Sars-CoV-2 virus immediately, it will take some time. The same is true for the more vulnerable people in our lives: if a loved one has been vaccinated, the vaccine will not begin to work immediately. It is important to still follow the safety guidelines around others, regardless if they have been vaccinated or not, even if their vaccine has already begun to work.
In addition to the vaccine taking some time to begin working, the vaccine does not work as effectively for everyone. “Even though, for the general population, it might be 90[%] effective,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, “you don’t necessarily know, for you, how effective it is.” Despite having success rates greater than 90%, approximately 5-10% of people immunized may still get infected with the virus. Seeing friends and family without a mask or disregarding social distancing measures for the time being is not worth the risk that is posed towards yourself and others. Although 90% effectiveness makes for a very successful vaccine, there is still the 10% of people, which in the U.S. is about 3.28 million people, that the vaccine may not be effective for, and who could experience a battle with the virus. We must not be careless and forget that the vaccine is not 100% effective.
Yet another reason to follow COVID-19 health protocols is that it is still relatively unknown if a person who has been vaccinated can still spread the virus. While developing the vaccine, scientists at Moderna and Pfizer were more focused on protecting the individual who has been vaccinated from contracting the Sars-CoV-2 virus than if said person could spread it to others. So even if you are vaccinated and protected from the virus, others around you might still be able to get infected. It is selfish to expose others who may not be protected from the virus, while one’s self is.
To summarize we all must still follow safety protocols because the vaccine doesn’t work immediately, the vaccine will not be effective for everyone, and it is still unknown if people who have been vaccinated can spread the virus to others. We must all still wear masks, social distance, and avoid indoor gatherings as much as possible, even if being vaccinated seems like it is right around the corner. Many people at SPA may be vaccinated in the coming weeks and months, but as a community we must focus on protecting each other.