“I got the mRNA vaccine. Now what?”

✅ SHORT ANSWER: The most common questions right now include:

1. When can I see my grandkids/friends/family after I get my vaccine? Not so fast.

2. Do I need to still wear a mask, distance, and quarantine if exposed after the vaccine? Yes, and I’ll explain why below.

3. When will I be fully protected after the 2nd dose? At least 2 weeks after the 2nd dose. (So, 5-6 weeks after your first dose.)

4. Do I still need to get vaccinated if I’ve had COVID-19? Yes

✅ LONG ANSWERS: All of these can be explained by looking at the picture on this post. We’ve already talked about this picture (see the pinned post Table O’Contents for the Vaccine Series) – this one shows the 95% efficacy with the Pfizer vaccine (the Moderna one looks really similar). Before we answer the above questions, let’s talk about the picture a bit:

◾️ Notice the red line (vaccine group) diverging from the blue line (placebo group) at Day 12. Do you see that in the break-out panel? That is when your body is starting to really ramp up making antibodies against COVID-19 from receiving the first dose. (BTW, we see this at day 12-14 for most other vaccines too. That’s why doctors tell you it will take approximately 2 weeks for flu vaccine to take effect too.)

◾️ Now notice the blue line continues to go up and up and up. Notice when day 21 to 28 occurs – that’s when the 2nd dose of the mRNA vaccine occurs.

◾️ The 2nd dose will give you a huge boost in terms of antibody-making-protection. Remember the Bob Ross post? If you missed it, here you go – it makes me smile because – well, it’s Bob Ross – happy trees. https://tinyurl.com/y6agcz33 Essentially, the first dose is the primer paint and the second dose is the real color, like a big-booster-shot.

◾️ After the 2nd dose, you still need to wait a few weeks for you to be fully protected.

◾️ In total, it’s about 5-6 weeks from your first dose to 2 weeks after your second dose.

✅ Now, back to the questions:

⭐ 1. When can I see my grandkids/family/friends? Don’t get the first dose and head straight to the grandkids house to party-it-up. (I see you, Grandparents! And I also see all of you parents who are excited for that too!) You still need to wait at least 2 weeks after your 2nd dose before you see those grandkids/family/friends.

⭐ 2. Why do I need to still wear a mask, distance, and quarantine if exposed? One reason is it takes a while for your body to build up protection (remember the blue line versus the red line). Another reason, and this is key, is we do not know if the vaccines prevent infection OR if vaccines just prevent you from getting symptoms if infected. In other words, we don’t know if the vaccines are Scenario 1 or 2 yet.

◾️ Scenario 1 – The mRNA vaccines will protect you from being infected at all from COVID-19. This is best case scenario!

◾️Scenario 2 – You can still get infected with COVID-19 after a vaccine. BUT you do not exhibit symptoms and/or develop severe disease. This is great because you have no symptoms (which reduces your risk of being a long-hauler or being hospitalized) and it takes the burden off of the hospitals. BUT it’s not good because you could potentially still spread to others – Remember, we know you can spread COVID-19 even if you’re asymptomatic. (See my post a few days ago for more on that.)

◾️ Summary: We do not know if vaccines are Scenario 1 or 2 yet. Because of this, continue to wear your masks, distance, and wash hands for the time being. Data is being collected to figure out if vaccines are Scenario 1 or 2 and we will keep you updated.

⭐ 3. When will I be fully protected after the 2nd dose? At LEAST 2 weeks after the 2nd shot. That 2nd shot is super important to give your body the “boost” needed for antibody production, and it will take a minimum of 2 weeks for that boost.

⭐ 4. Do I still need to get vaccinated if I’ve had COVID-19? Yes. We do not know how long natural immunity lasts. Some providers are suggesting waiting 90 days after you have had COVID-19 to get the vaccine. As always, talk to your healthcare provider.

Hope that helps, web-peeps!

-Friendly neighbor epidemiologist


(Pfizer data): https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2034577

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