BALTIMORE — As more people become fully vaccinated against COVID-19, there are questions about what a person can do once they receive the vaccine.
Before the CDC released its guidelines on Monday for people who are fully vaccinated, WMAR-2 News spoke to Dr. Theodore Bailey, the chief of GBMC's Division of Infectious Diseases, last week to get his recommendations of how to proceed once you get vaccinated.
How is the vaccine protecting me against COVID-19?
In the clinical trials of the vaccines, Dr. Bailey said they proved to be effective in preventing serious illness, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19. "We’re also seeing now they prevent infection, which means you’re not picking up the virus in the first place to be able to hand it on," Dr. Bailey said. "But it’s important to remember that they don’t do these jobs perfectly."
Can I still get the virus once I'm vaccinated?
"You’re much less likely to get severely sick, or sick at all, or even get infected but less likely doesn’t mean absolutely zero," said Dr. Bailey. "Adding this vaccine makes a big difference but we still saw people in the trial who got the vaccine, a small fraction of them would get ill from the infection, which means a fraction of them were also picking up the virus."
Do I have to continue wearing a mask and keep my distance?
Dr. Bailey said for the time being, he recommends people continue to follow the COVID-19 safety practices of masking up and maintaining distance, even after the get the vaccine, because only a small percentage of people have been vaccinated. "What COVID will do will very much depend on what we do. And if we drop all of our other safety mechanisms, our distancing, our masks things like that, we can drive those numbers right back up again."
What if I want to get together with people who have also been vaccinated?
"I would ideally feel more comfortable going to hang out with friends, all vaccinated, but keeping some distance in those settings. Outdoors as much as possible," said Dr. Bailey. He said to consider how careful your family or friends are being when it comes to hanging out with people outside their household and what their immediate environments are, such as living with elderly parents or grandparents. He said there is still a chance you could pick up the virus even if everyone in your group is vaccinated.
How long will the vaccine protect me against COVID-19?
Right now there is no concrete answer to this, said Dr. Bailey. Participants enrolled in the clinical trials at the very beginning are still being monitored to see how long the immunity from the vaccine will last.
The other issue at hand is variants of the virus. "Although the vaccines have proven to be effective against some of those variations, there’s reason to believe that variations could emerge that will elude the immunities," said Dr. Bailey.
"The good news is we know in general we can vaccinate for this virus. We can take the genetic sequence of these new variants and generate vaccines if we have to, using the methodology we used for the ones we have. So all is not loss."
So should I get the vaccine?
Dr. Bailey encourages everyone to get whatever vaccine is available to them when they are eligible. "The risk of COVID is not theoretical, its not speculative. It’s really in our community and we do have good evidence that these vaccines are safe and effective."
"One of the things we can do collectively for our fellow community members is get vaccinated, drive those numbers even further down so there’s no temptation to maintain closures, restrictions, things like that. Let the businesses open, let people get back to work."