Today I received my second dose of the Moderna vaccine, 4 weeks after the first one. So far, so good as far as side effects. My arm is sore and I may have more side effects later, but mostly I feel relief . What I don’t feel is that I am out of the woods yet. The most important thing to know about the vaccine is that takes a few weeks to develop full immunity, which means I could still get infected if I am not careful. Especially now that the new UK fast spreading strain has been found just north of here. I also need to be.aware of symptoms that could be an actual COVID infection and not just side effects. The vaccine will not really help if you were exposed in the few days before you get your vaccine, so keep up the mask wearing and social distancing to stay safe. Pay attention to any symptoms that seem worse or more persistent after the vaccine, especially if you lose your sense of smell.
The other important thing to understand is why we still put an emphasis on mask wearing even if you are vaccinated. We don’t know yet if the vaccine actually prevents asymptomatic infections. We know that Moderna and Pfizer BioNtech vaccines prevent disease, which is the goal- preventing serious illness and death. We don’t know if they give “sterilizing immunity” which prevents actual infections, stopping transmission. The ideal goal is to have sterilizing immunity from these vaccines, but we don’t have the data yet to know if these vaccines do that. We do know they decrease illness and deaths and that fact alone will save lives. As more people get vaccinated we will eventually reach herd immunity. Data will be forthcoming to help answer the question about sterilizing immunity.
We want to decrease the number of infections as fast possible, especially now that the new variants have raised and continue to develop. They can reverse the progress we are making since they are transmitted more easily. The New York Times has a good explanatory graphic about the UK’s B.1.1.7 variant. The huge outbreak in California may be influenced by these variants. The more infections there are, the more mutations occur. Some strains like the one from South Africa may actually allow some people to be re-infected because of the changes in the proteins allow better hiding from the immune system. So far the vaccines are expected to work but that can also diminish as more mutations occur.
We now have leadership that is pushing the country to increase the techniques that work to decrease infections: distancing, mask wearing, washing hands. Still many resist. They are not convinced, despite 420,000 deaths and 25 million infections.
Good news on the vaccine acceptance front is that more people are saying they will opt in. Some of that is due to the fact that the vaccine is proving to be safe, with more than 17 million vaccinated so far. Also, the messaging about vaccines is improving which is to focus on the benefits and safety, especially for you and your family, returning to normal, and acknowledging that some may have skepticism about the vaccine, without judgement, rather than simply being “misled” about the vaccine. Interesting to really look at how individual words matter. Now to try to help with mask wearing, because it is going to take time to get the vaccine to enough to make a difference. We need to decrease transmission now because of the new variants and their consequences.
Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe six. Keep it up.
And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is available, and not related to the organization I work for. Thanks for reading.