Spring is in the air, the weather is getting warmer, and everywhere you turn, people are getting vaccinated. After over a year of pandemic-related fears and anxieties, one by one, the general population are lining up to get the COVID-19 vaccine. It would appear that life might be starting to get back on track. But despite the prospect of normalcy being right around the corner, don’t get rid of those masks just yet. While you might feel a bit invisible after your first vaccine dose, it’s vital to keep in mind that risk of coronavirus transmission is still possible.
We sat down (socially distanced, of course) with Dr. Natalie Williams, family medicine doctor at Austin Regional Clinic, for an exclusive interview. She told us all about what we can expect from the doses, as well as what a return to “normalcy” will look like and what it will take for us all to stay safe, post-vaccine.
Dr. Williams strongly encourages you to wait to do normal activities until getting your second dose
According to Dr. Williams, there are a few common mistakes that people make during that 3-4 week period after getting their first dose, and before getting their second dose. “According to the existing clinical trial data, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine have a relatively weak immune response after just one dose,” she explains. “To be fully protected, you need two doses of these vaccines. So, hold off on activities until you at least get your second dose which is generally 21 days after the first dose for the Moderna vaccine and 28 days after the first dose for the Pfizer vaccine.”
And indeed, the CDC echoes this exact sentiment, per CNBC. Reports show that after just one dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, infection prevention can be as high as 80 percent. That being said, federal health officials still warn that “two doses are better than one”, and that a second dose increases effectiveness to 90 percent after two weeks.
There are cases of people contracting COVID even after their first dose of the vaccine
We know you’re itching to see your friends or start travelling again, but be patient! Dr. Williams recommends until you get your second dose, “you should still be cautious and adhere to the same safety measures as before you were vaccinated.” She explains that after the first dose, symptoms such as sore arm, low-grade fever, fatigue, and even nausea are common and not to be worried about. However, she adds that it’s common for symptoms to be more intense after the second dose, but that they should minimize or disappear completely away after a day or two.
According to Dr. Williams, it’s important to understand the concept of efficacy in the context of COVID-19. “Efficacy is more about how well the vaccine works when tested in a controlled way,” she says. “Initial studies of efficacy don’t take into consideration unknowns that are specific to certain people (such as if they’re immune-compromised or elderly) or even viral changes (like we’re seeing now with new variants) that can occur. We have had patients who have gotten COVID after only one dose of the vaccine, which is more likely to occur than after getting the second dose. This is why getting both shots is so important.” Per theSkimm, this situation of getting COVID after the first dose is absolutely possible, and has happened in more cases than you might expect.
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