Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is an important moment for you and those around you that you come into contact with.
Those that are fully vaccinated can begin enjoying many activities that lockdowns stopped because of the pandemic.
However, just because you are double-vaccinated, it does not mean that you are immune to getting the virus. A recent UK study found that 40% of new COVID cases were found amongst vaccinated.
First, let’s be clear. Being vaccinated does not mean that vaccines are not working. The data demonstrates that as more of us are vaccinated, the numbers for getting COVID will rise.
Plus, like the flu vaccine – just because you have the jab does not mean you will not get flu or COVID. What it does mean is that the likelihood of hospitalisation and severe SARS is reduced.
For instance, Public Health England suggests that against the delta variant, two doses of the authorised vaccines are estimated to offer 79% protection against COVID-19 symptoms and 96% protection against hospitalisation.
It’s evident then that vaccines are working. However, amongst the vaccinated, we must still be mindful in protecting ourselves and those around us who are either vaccinated or chose not to or cannot be.
If you’re not vaccinated yet, consider if possible
If you are not yet vaccinated, find a vaccine that is suitable for you. Naturally, for a small minority of people, having vaccines can cause complications and thus should be avoided.
For most of us, getting vaccinated, even for both high and low-risk groups, is very important.
COVID-19 vaccines protect people from becoming hospitalised and becoming severely ill. Furthermore, people who have been fully vaccinated can begin to do more activities that lockdowns stopped due to the pandemic.
Before getting vaccinated
Do your research. There is a lot of information (and sadly misinformation) out there about COVID vaccines. Learn about how each vaccine works and which group (for example, age or high-risk) they are best suited for.
To avoid misinformation, check the Ministry of Health of your country to determine what vaccines are available and where you can get vaccinated. Ensure you’re relying on accurate vaccine information by checking that it comes from a trustworthy source, the WHO.
And of course, if you have doubts, speak to your doctor.
On the day of your vaccination, if you experience any COVID-19 symptoms, do NOT go to your appointment. You can spread the virus to others at the vaccination centre.
It’s essential to cancel your appointment if you show symptoms of COVID-19.
Contact your vaccination centre and let them know you are experiencing symptoms. They will advise you not to come and reschedule your appointment.
You can still get vaccinated when 14 days have passed since you last experienced COVID-19 symptoms and are out of quarantine. Just because you have COVID-19 and the antibodies do not mean you are no longer at risk.
When are you considered fully vaccinated?
People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose with Pfizer, Astra-Zeneca or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after the Janssen vaccine (that only needs one dose).
If you don’t fall under these criteria, you are NOT considered fully vaccinated. It would be safer to keep taking all precautions until you are fully vaccinated.
COVID-19 vaccines are effective at stopping people from developing the virus. Still, we don’t yet know whether they prevent people from passing the infection onto others.
I’m double vaccinated. Why do I need to take additional protection?
As discussed above, most COVID-19 vaccines need two doses to offer protection. Meaning you need to be vaccinated twice — with a gap of 4-12 weeks between the first and second dose.
Study after study has demonstrated vaccine effectiveness. Research from the CDC concludes that COVID-19 vaccines are effective against SARS-CoV-2 infections, including asymptomatic infection, symptomatic disease, severe disease and death.
The report also mentions that COVID-19 vaccines offer protection against known emerging variants. Whilst there is a relatively slight possibility that vaccinated people can become infected and transmit the virus, the viral load found in these small cases are reduced. Meaning, those small cases are less symptomatic and less likely to transmit the virus in plain terms.
Still, it is possible to become infected or infect others. Thus even if double-vaccinated, it is crucial to keep doing preventative measures, mainly as we still are not entirely sure of the impact of the new variants. We don’t yet know whether they prevent people from passing the infection onto others.
Rise of the COVID variants
Despite the enormous advances in knowledge about the SARS-CoV-2 virus, humans haven’t gotten any better at fending it off or fighting an infection.
Furthermore, the virus continues to evolve into newer variants, becoming more transmissible and more deadly.
The Alpha variant, formerly known as B.1.1.7 and first reported in Britain, is estimated to be about 50 per cent more transmissible and between 40 and 70 per cent more lethal.
The Delta variant, formerly known as B.1.617.2 and first identified in India, is 60 per cent more infectious than the Alpha variant and is more likely to lead to severe illness and hospitalisation.
The Delta variant is relatively new, but it’s quickly overtaken Alpha as the variant to avoid. Public Health England estimates that Delta now accounts for more than 90 per cent of newer COVID-19 cases in the UK. It was such a cause for concern that the UK delayed opening up for a month to ease the potential hospitalisations.
Vaccines still appear to protect against even this newest variant of concern. Whilst studies have only examined the effectiveness of only Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines against the Delta variant, other COVID-19 vaccines will likely be similarly protective.
For example, a study of the J&J vaccine demonstrated that the vaccine to be highly protective against the Alpha, Gamma and Beta variants.
Vaccines + preventative measures = hybrid approach to stopping COVID
After vaccination, it is still safest to practice physical distancing where possible.
If you need to interact with people face-to-face, keep a distance of 2 metres and frequently ventilate all rooms. Ventilation rooms do not offer complete protection, but they can decrease the concentration of viruses in the air.
You can use a non-medical grade wearable air purifier* worn on a user’s shoulders for added protection.
So, rather than taking a long time to purify the air in each room, people can enter any room knowing that it filters the personal air around them. The UV air purifier is effective against viruses and bacteria, completely reusable. It doesn’t cover faces, so it’s ideal for use in offices, hotels and schools.
It’s a similar strategy that is being used in Germany.
Until herd immunity is achieved (and this could be a while yet), the health ministry has purchased €200 million of mobile air purifiers for their schools. Estonia recently has adopted a similar tactic, but instead of mobile air purifiers, are using Respiray wearable air purifiers in their state and private schools.
Whether flu, COVID-19 or other seasonal viruses, practising good hygiene has always been and continues to stop viruses transmitting effectively.
You should clean your hands frequently and thoroughly, either with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
Viruses usually enter the infected person’s body through their nose, mouth, or eyes, so avoid touching your face to protect yourself from COVID-19 and other viruses. When you feel like you need to sneeze or cough, do it into your elbow or a disposable tissue.
These preventative recommendations can help decide the daily activities you can do after you are fully vaccinated. Remaining vigilant, even if vaccinated, not only protects you from getting viruses (even if asymptomatically or mild symptoms), but it stops the transmission to others who may be high-risk or unvaccinated.
Vaccines are helping fight this pandemic, but a hybrid approach that includes personal protection and technology are the only ways we can live with the virus for the foreseeable future.