The News Is Still About Covid-19 – It Hasn’t Gone away – Not Yet

Allison Y. Gibbons. PH.D

March 31, 2021

So, you’ve received your two doses of Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna, or your single dose of the Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine.  Now what?  To put this achievement in perspective, to date, you are among the mere 16% of individuals who are fully vaccinated in the US, and one of the 7% across the world.  If we want to assume that those who have recovered from Covid-19 are at least partially immune, that’s another 9% added to the coverage. Still far from the goal.  The CDC and UN/WHO advise that in order to achieve herd immunity, 80% of your population must be fully vaccinated.  Of all the countries across the globe, Israel has done the best, covering 53% of their population so far.  Many poorer countries are at zero, because of lack of vaccines, and in better-off countries like the US, Great Britain and parts of Europe where vaccines are available, there are the vaccine ‘refuseniks’ who are slowing down the march towards herd immunity.  This is no indictment against the few who for reason of a medical condition cannot be vaccinated. Nonetheless, after one full year of cautions, lock-downs, quarantine and mask-wearing to protect ourselves and others from the spread of Coronavirus, we still have a long way to go.  The WHO admits that in all populations the majority remains susceptible to Covid 19.  To date, 84% of the US population are not yet fully vaccinated, and 93% of the world's people are still waiting for vaccines.  In disease terms, “A pandemic anywhere is still a pandemic everywhere.”

 

Those who have been fully vaccinated are still cautioned that you are not fully free to “pass go” although we may be entitled to a few rewards.  According to the CDC, these are the health-preserving freedoms that fully vaccinated individuals have:

- You can enjoy the relief to consider yourself fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving your second dose of Pfizer or Moderna, or after your single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.  But it’s best to allow yourself at least four weeks.

-You can gather with other fully vaccinated family members and friends in homes and private events without having to wear a mask.  As long as everyone present has been fully vaccinated, not counting children.

-You can travel in your own vehicles without wearing a mask, along with other passengers who have all been fully vaccinated.


Not much, but a small step towards normalcy. Dr. Anthony Fauci of the NIH, and Dr Rochelle Walensky of the CDC caution us that we must continue to social distance, avoid crowds, wash hands regularly, stay home when sick, and report Covid-like symptoms even if fully vaccinated. And we are not ready to discard masks. We must wear a mask in all places and spaces that serve the public, and also inside all modes of public transportation – planes, trains, buses, limousines, taxis, Uber and Lyft.


On the home front, the wild card continues to be those in the age group 18 – 30 who will be among the last (other than children and infants) to be offered vaccines. While they wait, they have been identified as “Covid -19 super-spreaders”’ because even though they don’t readily succumb to the illness themselves, they are suspected of spreading the virus exponentially.  If you are in the older age groups – 60 and above, and you are fully vaccinated, you are reminded to insist that the party-going, crowd-loving younger family members wear a mask in your presence.  And for double caution, you too should wear a mask when they are around. Many from the “super-spreader” clusters have had reason to lament, after the fact, that they brought Covid home to their parents and grandparents, a sizable number of whom didn’t survive.  “It’s better to be safe than sorry” is not just a cheesy platitude for the young or old.


It must be accepted that the behavior of the Coronavirus is not yet fully understood. The science is not faulty.  Good science acknowledges the unknown factors. Researchers are seeking to yet comprehend Covid immunity.  Many questions remain about how long immunity from the many vaccines will last, and also what type of immunity is obtained as a result of infection by the virus among those who have survived. So far, there is little evidence of re-infection by the vaccinated or by Covid survivors. But more time is needed to provide definitive answers about the duration of our protection.  Scientists are backed up by two critical pieces of evidence from decades of research. One is that historically, herd immunity has never been achieved for any epidemic or pandemic through Infection; it has been attained through Vaccination. The other fact is that immunity declines over time.   We can’t fast-forward the answer to the question – how long does our immunity last? One year? Two years? Ten years? Would we need booster shots? No one knows yet. We are talking here of vaccines that are merely beyond the three months mark.


Meanwhile, the legislators in some states and cities are trying to shore up our sense of health safety and freedom in public spaces by seeking to enact policies to require proof of vaccination from all individuals before they are allowed to enter certain types of crowded locations such as restaurants, concert halls, theaters and sports arenas – places that can be controlled at points of entry,   New York State for example, is in the process of launching a secure Excelsior pass with a digital vaccine card or passport that reveals a QR code.  Others may follow suit. Airlines are mulling the idea. While it is true that fully vaccinated persons are given a real tangible card as evidence of vaccination, security experts worry that such cards have the potential to be duplicated or used by other individuals who are not the bona-fide vaccinated owners.  Despite the push for digital proof,  you should hang-on to your card, and keep it in a secure place. Take a picture of it and keep in your phone. If you live or travel near to a Staples or Office-Depot business facility, those companies are offering free lamination of your card to give it durability.  Be careful with attempts to laminate it yourself. If perchance you lose or destroy your card accidentally, you should contact the Health Department for the county, town or city where you were vaccinated to request a copy.


Herd Immunity is the threshold of health security that we seek.  It will be months or even another year before we arrive at that level of vaccination coverage.   But Herd Immunity may not even be the Holy Grail of protection.  It is still possible that after we arrive at the threshold, pockets of outbreaks can spike in locations within a community where the chain of Coronavirus transmission has not yet been broken because vaccination rates are low in that particular area.  Such outbreaks and emergence of hotspots can set a country back into crisis or panic mode on account of easy spread due to travel, relaxed protocols, and people who disregard or deny Covid’s dangers because they prize their freedom over the health rights of others, or they abide by Covid conspiracy theories. The anniversary month of March 2021 gives way to April with Covid-19 still a shadow stalking us. At this juncture, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the CDC went off script at a recent interview, to share her feelings of impending doom due to the spike in cases and the spread of Coronavirus variant strains.  We can’t help but want Dr. Walensky to be wrong on this one occasion, as we look forward to brighter days and years ahead. 


Further Reading

1. Experts Explain Why You Aren’t ‘Fully’ Vaccinated Against COVID-19 Right After Your Final Dose. Prevention Magazine

 https://apple.news/AJ3-xeHUGTmidr1ym3jEIrQ


2.The First Thing To Do After You’re Fully Vaccinated

https://a.msn.com/r/2/BB1eXgEc?m=en-us&referrerID=InAppShare