January 22, 2021
What to Do After the COVID-19 Vaccine
So you’ve gotten the COVID-19 vaccine. What now?
KC CARE has vaccinated more than 1,400 people in the Phase 1a category (see the graphic below). While other local vaccination sites in the region have moved to Phase 2, demand by healthcare workers is still high. To continue to meet the demand of local healthcare workers while also protecting our communities most at-risk populations, we will begin offering vaccinations to established KC CARE patients ages 65 and older.
As exciting as this forward progress with the COVID-19 vaccine is, it doesn’t mean we’re all in the clear just yet.
Healthcare workers across the country are issuing warnings with this in mind, such as this article recently published by Dhruv Khullar, MD, in the New Yorker titled, “How getting vaccinated will (and won’t) change my behavior.”
In short, here’s the crux of Dr. Khullar’s message:
At the moment, we don’t know how the new coronavirus vaccines will affect transmission. While conducting their clinical trials, Pfizer and Moderna tracked how many vaccinated people got sick with covid-19; they didn’t study whether the virus infected them. It’s possible that inoculated people in the trial caught the coronavirus, but that the vaccine prevented them from developing symptoms. If that happened, it would hardly lessen the astonishing nature of these vaccines, which have been developed in record time and prevent illness with an efficacy that was unthinkable just a few months ago. But it would mean that vaccinated individuals, without getting sick themselves, could give the virus to unvaccinated people—that is, to the majority of Americans, for months to come.
Like many healthcare providers, KC CARE’s physician Dr. Ben Grin, who also sits on Kansas City Health Commission, has been thinking on this in recent weeks.
“We don’t know for sure if the vaccine prevents against asymptomatic infection and spread of COVID-19, but we do know it’s good against symptomatic and severe COVID-19 infection,” says Dr. Grin. “But people who are vaccinated could still potentially pass COVID-19 to others and make them really sick.”
So what does this mean for you, if you’ve already gotten the vaccine?
You can take it from Dr. Grin himself. When we asked him if he’d be doing anything differently now that he’s been vaccinated, he said, “No, not really. Until we know vaccinated people cannot spread COVID-19 (asymptomatic or symptomatic), people should be cautious and continue to mask and social distance to protect people around them.”
If you or someone you know has been vaccinated, Dr. Grin says:
“To be fully protected, you need to wait a couple weeks after your second dose. After being vaccinated, I might be ok spending time indoors without a mask (like at a dinner table) with others who are fully vaccinated. I would still avoid being unmasked around others who are unvaccinated, at least until we have more information.”
One thing Dr. Grin won’t be doing for the foreseeable future—even though he’s gotten the COVID-19 vaccine: eating indoors at a restaurant.
“Daily deaths from COVID are higher than they’ve ever been and we’re nowhere near herd immunity. Ultimately, the vaccine will get us out of this,” says Dr. Grin. “But to prevent more unnecessary deaths, we have to continue masking and social distancing.”
We at KC CARE and your community are counting on you to continue to participate in the same prevention and distancing behaviors that we’ve been encouraging all along.
Some public health advocates like to use the Swiss Cheese Model to describe the way multiple social distancing and hygiene behaviors together create a stronger shield of COVID-19 prevention.
What if I haven’t had the vaccine yet?
Stay tuned, and opt in to the vaccine as soon as you have the opportunity. “We have a long way to reach herd immunity,” says Dr. Grin.
“But we feel that both of the currently approved vaccines [Moderna and Pfizer] are very safe and effective,” says Dr. Grin. “If you have the chance to get the vaccine, you really should take it for your own health and the people around you. Allergic reactions are very uncommon.”
For instance, a recent FAQ published by the New England Journal of Medicine , shared just how rare allergic reactions to the COVID-19 vaccines are:
It’s critically important to emphasize that these allergic reactions are uncommon — the current estimate is that anaphylaxis will occur at approximately 1 in 100,000 doses. Although this rate of severe allergic reactions is higher than that with other vaccines, it is substantially lower than the rate reported with penicillin, which is estimated to be 1 in 5,000.
The above FAQ and KC CARE’s vaccine FAQs are great resources for answers your questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.
We will let you know as soon as we learn more about vaccine availability for other members of the general public as we follow the guidance in the below image.