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COVID-19 Vaccines

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Q:  I think I had a mild case of Coronavirus back in the spring, so since I am immune now, why get should I get the vaccine now?

A:  I am not a virologist, but the experts tell us that “natural immunity” from actually having the virus is pretty good….but likely not as good as the vaccine.  It’s a long story, but this is an entirely new kind of vaccine.  All our previous vaccines have used a weakened form of the actual virus to trigger our immune system to produce antibodies to fight the infection.  It appears that antibodies are not the best way to fight this virus in the long run, so our body uses a different method called “ T cell immunity”.  This type is longer lasting than antibodies, and much harder to measure in people.  Other viral studies found T cell immunity still present six years after the vaccination!   But so far, we do not really know how long this protection will last.

This Covid-19 vaccine has proven in the excellent studies so far to prevent any symptomatic disease in about 95% of the people.    It has been able to prevent serious, hospitalization type, disease in 100% of the people being vaccinated.  This is a terrific development, because previous virus research had laid groundwork and the financial barriers were erased….allowing record speed for quality vaccine development.

People are asking if getting the vaccine prevents you from transmitting the virus to others.  The answer is we really do not know yet.  One small study found no measurable virus in the noses of people after the first shot in 2/3 of the people.  This is not conclusive, but hints at protection.   The experts tell us that the best way to be sure you are carrying Covid to others is to still wear your mask.

We all need to continue to mask up to protect others.   Until we have about 70% of the population vaccinated, this virus may continue to infect and kill the most vulnerable of our family and friends.  So again, it appears that even if you had a real case of Covid earlier you should get the highly effective vaccine as soon as you can.  Caution:  If you have ever had a serious reaction to any vaccine, you should ask your physician before being vaccinated for Covid.  By “serious” we do not mean a sore arm, or slightly elevated temperature for a day, or even feeling tired for a day.  Those would be normal reactions to the types of vaccines we have used up until now.  The most dangerous reaction for any vaccine is having trouble breathing in that first hour after the shot.  While treatable if done quickly, this “ anaphylaxis” response can be life threatening, so waiting 15-30 minutes after your shot is the standard precaution for any and every vaccine.

As a side note, it turns out that the CDC has found 86 times LESS regular flu this year so far, compared to last year!   Again, we cannot say for sure it is just the masks, but likely that is the extra protection we are getting by masking up.   Be safe, be smart, be healthy!