As long-time public health professionals, we are very enthusiastic about the Pfizer and Moderna covid-19 vaccines and have been privileged to help with local vaccine clinics.
As of early February 2021, it appears that even fully vaccinated people can be infected with the virus that causes covid-19, yet experience few or no symptoms. This means that even if you have received two shots, you could possibly be infected and pass the disease on to others. Until we understand more, this finding has two very important implications.
First, this means that vaccinated people must continue all currently recommended precautions, including (1) avoiding gatherings with others not in your household; (2) keeping at least six feet away from others not in your household; (3) wearing masks that cover your nose and mouth whenever you are around other people who don’t live with you; and (4) washing your hands often.
Second, this means that “herd immunity” might not be able to eliminate the transmission of this virus. Based on current knowledge, only the physical distancing measures above will eliminate all transmission of the virus that causes covid-19 — and they won’t work perfectly unless almost all of us practice them.
Your vaccine will protect you from severe disease, but you could still pass the virus, particularly the new variant, on to others. Until we have eliminated the virus — or nearly so — we must stay vigilant!
DAVE CUNDIFF, MD MPH
SHERRI McDONALD, RN MPA