- Vaccinations are an essential part of ending the COVID-19 pandemic. While you may have finished your vaccination series, wearing a face covering, practicing social distancing, and washing your hands with soap and water is still essential to maintaining your health and the health of those around you.
- Despite receiving the vaccine, it is still possible that you contract the coronavirus due to the lag time it takes your body to build immunity. There have been numerous instances where vaccinated individuals have become infected with COVID-19.
- Being vaccinated confers a great deal of protection; however, as a general guideline, you should act as if you were not vaccinated.
Vaccinated individuals can still become infected COVID-19
As of January 25, the FDA has approved the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use authorization (EUA). Both vaccines require two doses, spaced approximately three to four weeks (21-28 days) apart.
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Timing is important in terms of being vaccinated and still contracting the coronavirus. According to experts, individuals may be vaccinated and still contract COVID-19 for several reasons:
- It is possible that you are infected with the coronavirus prior to getting your first shot. Under such circumstances, the disease may manifest itself after you have been vaccinated. The purpose of a vaccine is prevention; therefore, if you are already infected when you are vaccinated, the vaccine can do little to prevent the onset of symptoms. For more information on how to care for yourself when infected with the coronavirus, see our article here.
- Being that there is a lag time for your body to develop immunity, it is possible that you become infected with COVID-19 between your first and second doses. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine stated that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine only conferred 52.4% immunity between the first and second doses. Therefore, due to this lower immunity, it is possible that you become infected after receiving a single dose of the vaccine.
- Both vaccines are greater than 94% effective once you have received two doses; however, this immunity takes time to build. Acting as a booster to the first vaccine, the second dose “reminds” your immune system of what to target when exposed to the coronavirus. Your immune system will take time to develop immunity once “reminded” of what the coronavirus looks like. Accordingly, the >94% immunity conferred by the vaccines is not instantaneous; rather, it takes time to develop. During this period of development, it is possible that you may become sick with COVID-19.
Regardless of where you are in your vaccination series, wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and washing your hands is critical to staying safe and healthy.
Vaccinated individuals may still be able to spread COVID-19
Although the vaccination series will confer immunity, it is possible that vaccinated individuals can still spread the coronavirus. Immunity does not necessarily equate to not spreading COVID-19.
Therefore, just because you are immune (or partially immune) does not mean you cannot spread the virus.
Both vaccines will protect you from contracting the coronavirus; however, scientists are still unaware whether they will prevent you from spreading the virus to others.
Accordingly, regardless of where you are in terms of completing your vaccination series, you should continue to wear a mask, practice social distancing, and wash your hands.