Even if you’ve received the COVID vaccine you still need to mask up. Vigilance is still of utmost importance, here’s why from a health care worker.
On December 24, 2020, I climbed into my car early and made my way to the hospital. This should have been like any other day, another shift at my hospital during this everlasting pandemic. But December 24 was different—it became a day of hope. I received my first COVID vaccine dose that morning. My hospital cafeteria, where I received my vaccine, was vibrating with excitement: Laughter was echoing from the ceiling. I could feel the proverbial smiles plastered across the faces of my colleagues. Those smiles I missed sharing.
I received the Moderna vaccine that morning. Over the course of 48 hours, I experienced residual soreness at the site of my injection, but that resolved a few days later. I also experienced a mild sinus headache, which again resolved within a few days. According to Moderna, the vaccine takes about 14 days to build an immune response, reaching an efficacy of 80-90%, as noted in phase III trials (here and here). The second vaccine, which is to be administered four weeks later, should improve the efficacy of protecting against COVID to 94%.
According to Pfizer, their vaccine was noted to develop moderate protection within the first 12 days of receiving this first dose amongst study participants in phase III trials, resulting in an average vaccine efficacy of at least 52%. This efficacy was noted to increase to 95% after the second dose, three weeks later.
Despite this promising information, it is important to remember that there is limited evidence that these vaccines prevent the transmission of the virus from an asymptomatic but vaccinated person—to an unvaccinated person. There is still a risk for transmission throughout the duration of the vaccination rollout. (Read more here and here)
While this information can feel unnerving and provoking, it serves as an important reminder that until everyone receives the vaccine, PPE will remain a constant part of all of our lives. Vigilance is still of utmost importance to maintain safety. If you are spending time with friends outside of your pod, mask up! Even if you have received the vaccine, you should continue to wear a mask around others to protect yourself, as well as your friends and family, as noted by professionals at Harvard. We must all remain accountable.
With this information in mind, healthcare and other frontline professionals will also continue to require the valuable and increasingly limited supply of PPE to safely treat patients with COVID. Safe, medical-grade PPE will assist in limiting their capacity to transmit the virus to their coworkers, patients, and family and friends.
I truly miss being able to share a smile with my patients and coworkers uninhibited by my PPE—a smile has the innate power to humanize medicine. Until then, I will line up for my second dose on January 21, with my smile hidden under my mask. I will continue to show up to work, and out in public, with that same promise:
I will continue to wear my mask to protect others.
I got the vaccine to protect me.
I wear a mask to protect my patients, my coworkers, and my family.