With great anticipation, both Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna began shipping COVID vaccines to hospitals across the country recently. Healthcare workers and, in some cases, long-term care facility residents started receiving their vaccines. Though it may take some time for all of use to be vaccinated, eventually this will happen. This leads to the obvious question…What does post-vaccination life look like? Will we return back to pre-COVID normal, or will we morph into some new society tainted by our shared experience? These are good questions about living after the COVID vaccine, and ones that we need to explore.
According to most experts, they predict life won’t return to a 2019-normal for a long time, if ever. There will be lasting effects of the pandemic on all of us that will influence how we behave and interact. Some will wear masks in certain situations or during specific seasons long after the COVID vaccine is administered. Others will keep away from crowded events and gatherings even in their post-vaccination life. But are these behaviors required and recommended or simply a matter of choice? In order to answer that, we need to understand a little bit more about the vaccination itself.
The Coronavirus Vaccine in a Nutshell
At the current time, only two coronavirus vaccines have been released. The one by Pfizer/BioNTech has been FDA approved. The one by Moderna is expected to receive approval very soon. In both instances, these vaccinations involve a messenger RNA (mRNA) molecule, which is a particle of the COVID virus. This particle triggers your immune system to attack it as a foreign substance, yet the mRNA by itself cannot cause any harm. However, because COVID contains this mRNA particle, your immune system can protect you later should you ever become infected. In essence, your immune system has been primed and is now ready to launch into action.
The effectiveness of these vaccinations is in the mid-90 percent range, which is actually quite good. However, it also means roughly 5 percent won’t be protected after the COVID vaccine is received. Side effects are also common and last about a day. These may include a low-grade fever, muscle aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. If these symptoms are present, it’s actually a good sign because it means your immune system is reacting. In addition, both vaccines now require two doses, and side effects are most common after the second dose. But within days of the second dose, you will likely be protected from acquiring the coronavirus, at least for a time.
Post-Vaccination Life Dos and Don’ts
After the COVID vaccine is received, you might assume mask-less smiles and hugs for everyone to return. That’s not going to be the case. Post-vaccination life won’t actually look much different from pre-vaccination life for a long time for a lot of reasons. For one, it’s going to take a long time for the vast majority of people to receive the vaccination. Similarly, much is still unknown about the virus. Both mean we need to play things super-safe in post-vaccination life while still managing pandemic stress. The following are some specific dos and don’ts to consider after the COVID vaccine is received.
- Do Wear a Mask – Even after the COVID vaccine, it’s going to be important for everyone to keep wearing masks. While the vaccine protects the vast majority who receive it, it may not prevent them from spreading the virus to others. This was not part of the accelerated studies that led to vaccine approval. Therefore, post-vaccination life will continue to require mask wearing until herd immunity is achieved.
- Don’t Resume High-Risk Activities – If you must wear a mask, then it’s understandable high-risk activities should also be avoided. Indoor restaurants with limited ventilation, crowded events or parties, and similar activities are a definite “don’t.” Eventually, these will be safe in post-vaccination life once 70 percent of the population has been vaccinated. This is when experts say herd immunity exists. Until then, you should skip events with superspreader potential even after the COVID vaccine is received.
- Do Continue to Socially Distance – One of the concerns is that individuals could still infect others even after the COVID vaccine is received. They may be able to harbor the virus in the nasal passages for short periods of time. This would allow them to spread COVID to un-vaccinated people even though they’re protected. Because of this, post-vaccination life will continue to include social distancing to be safe. This may change as scientists learn more, but that won’t be for some time.
- Don’t Start Jet-Setting the World – If you’re like most people, you’re anxious to resume travel. Unfortunately, after the COVID vaccine is received, you won’t be able to simply resume normal travel activities. Many countries will vary in their vaccine distributions. Likewise, there is always a potential for the COVID virus to morph into new strains. For these reasons, and the reasons above, international travel will be discouraged in the immediate post-vaccination life. Travel is necessary, and it will return in full force. But for a while, continued precautions are necessary.
- Do Stay Up-To-Date – As you can imagine, scientists pooled their expertise to get the COVID vaccines out as fast as possible. As a result, much remains to be learned about how the virus changes, how well the vaccines work, and more. Because of this, it’s important that you stay informed about recent happenings in your post-vaccination life. New insights about how often the vaccine needs to be readministered and other issues will be revealed in time. Hopefully, this will allow many don’ts to turn into dos.
A Bright but Unknown Future
At the current time, logistical challenges exist in getting millions of people vaccinated. The hope is that herd immunity might be something achievable by mid-summer. If so, then the above precautions of post-vaccination life might be relaxed. But more information about infectious spread, vaccine schedules, and seasonal variations is needed. Regardless, the potential for the world to look more normal in 2021 is bright. And that is something we all can celebrate.
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