Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine may feel like extreme relief for many, for good reason. It safeguards from being at a higher risk of infection from COVID-19, however, it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re off the hook for being diligent with our own health and the health of others. What is most important to keep in mind after being vaccinated?
The COVID-19 vaccine development in the U.S. was a groundbreaking accomplishment in science, as typical vaccines take decades to develop and generally have a lower efficacy than those developed by the pharmaceutical giants, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. As vaccines continue to roll out in masses in the U.S., thousands are flocking to receive their doses in hopes of life returning to “normal.” And the numbers climb daily: as of March 31, 2021, 39% of adults in the U.S. have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Our experts take a deeper dive into the difference between each vaccine and what you should know after receiving the full dose.
What’s the difference between the vaccines?
There are three distinct vaccines available, but each can protect us in similar ways. The Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are being actively distributed in the U.S. with thousands being immunized daily. What are the main differences? Vaccines are designed to train the immune system to produce antibodies that recognize and respond to an invader if the body is exposed and infected. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were developed using messenger RNA (mRNA) technology: these vaccines work by delivering a small piece of SARS CoV-2genetic code to cells, which are instructed to make copies of proteins found on coronavirus cells. The new spikes signal an immune response from the body that produce antibodies to protect against a real infection, if it should occur. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, however, is a carrier vaccine, which involves scientists infecting a harmless adenovirus with a piece of SARS CoV-2 genetic code. The infected adenovirus invades cells, which produce spike proteins that train the immune system by creating antibodies and memory cells that can attack a real infection. The vaccines also differ slightly in efficacy and administration. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have a ~95% overall efficacy and are 2-dose vaccines, whereas the Johnson & Johnson variety has a ~72% overall efficacy and is a single dose.
What do to after being vaccinated
After receiving either a second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine, or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, it takes the body about 2 weeks to develop immunity. This means that a period of waiting time is required before any regulations can be lifted around interacting with other vaccinated or low-risk individuals.
Wear a mask – still
Experts are still unsure of how likely it may be for vaccinated people to still pass on the virus to unvaccinated people. For this reason, it is important to wear a mask at all times when in public places to protect those around you – and protect yourself.
Social distance, unless…
Since it is still unclear about the possibility of transmitting COVID-19 from vaccinated individuals to unvaccinated individuals, social distancing in public should still occur. However, experts now say small groups of individuals who have all been vaccinated can gather safely indoors without masks. Also, vaccinated individuals and low-risk individuals can gather without masks. Still practice social distancing, unless you are with a small group of vaccinated people that have passed their 2-week “waiting” period after their last vaccine dose.
Keep protecting your health & the health of others
The journey to stay healthy does not end after a vaccine. It’s important to keep the body healthy through a well-balanced diet, full of vitamins and minerals, and participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. Both of these factors help strengthen the immune system and prepare it for any possible infections.
While it still may feel like not much has changed with post-vaccination protocols, as the proportion of vaccinated people grow in the U.S., the better chance there may be for life to return to “normal” without the looming risk of infection. This will take diligence and patience, and a keen eye on science to prevent resurgences and stay fully informed.
This article is not intended to provide medical advice. Talk to your doctor before making any medical decisions. Additional scientific insights may have become available after the publication date of April 1, 2021.