You’ve been vaccinated but it’s not over.

Covid-19 Vaccine
Covid-19 Vaccine
Stock image of a scary needle

Why are Covid cases surging nationwide, even though we’re vaccinating more people and faster than ever before? Bad science reporting and widespread misinformation. Why are prominent epidemiologists, virologists, and scientists warning about a 4th wave? Here’s some truth bombs for y’all. 

You may think, “I’ve been fully vaccinated, so now I can do what I want!” Alas, that’s not the guidance and, as much as we’re all tired of staying home, wearing masks, and standing on two-meter/six-foot floor stickers, we’re not really done with any of that yet. Even after we’re vaccinated. 

Here’s why

Let’s start with a fundamental misunderstanding of how viruses and vaccines work. A vaccine does not prevent a virus from entering your body. A vaccine mimics a particular part of a particular virus to stimulate your body’s natural immune system. It’s like a message to your body that says, “here’s what this virus looks like so get ready!” The vaccine does not prevent the virus from entering, it simply triggers your body’s defenses in advance so you’re prepared to fight off the virus. 

Without vaccination, many instances of the virus may infect many cells in your body, and replicate to infect many more. Your body may not have time or resources to create enough antibodies to fight off the onslaught. When you are vaccinated, your body is prepared to fight off the virus, if and when it sees it. The virus is not blocked from entering your body. You may even have a minor infection in a minor number of cells. Your body is simply prepared to fight it faster than it can replicate. 

You can still spread the virus

One important lesson here is that you are still capable of spreading the virus. You may have a minor infection. You may not notice the infection because you’re well-equipped to fight it. But it still may happen. If you’re around someone who has the virus, you may just catch some in your respiratory system and spread it on your breath. And, even if you don’t get sick, you may still spread the virus. 

Yes, that’s right. Even after you’ve been vaccinated you may still carry and spread the virus. You probably will not spread as large a viral load as an unvaccinated person. But may still be a risk to other people. 

This is why the guidance remains to stay home if you can, still wear a mask when you go out, and still avoid crowds. It’s going to be like this for a while so please hang in there. 

What can you do?

What can we do if we’re vaccinated? We can have small gatherings at home with family, friends, and loved ones who have also been vaccinated. 

Over time, as more and more people are vaccinated, we may reach herd immunity. You’ve seen that term before. What does it mean? 

Herd immunity (also called, community immunity) means that enough people have been vaccinated, reducing the number of vulnerable hosts, so there are fewer people to carry and spread it, and the virus begins to die off. How many people need to be vaccinated in order to reach herd immunity? That varies from virus to virus, and this one is still too new to really know the answer. So, for now the answer is “we’ll know it when we see it.” But we’re not there yet, and we’re not likely to be there for a while. Expect it to be a year or so and you won’t be disappointed. 

Take comfort in the knowledge that we’re making progress. Get vaccinated to help get us there quicker. And please, follow the guidance. Try not to get ahead of the curve. We’ll get there in time, but yeah, it will take time.  

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