Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine is an important step towards ending the pandemic – congratulations! Once you have received both doses of the  COVID-19 vaccine, you may be wondering what’s next. The vaccine is shown to be 95% effective about a week or two after the second dose is received. It is important to remain vigilant during and after this time. You may be thinking once you have been vaccinated that things will be normal again, but not quite yet. At this time, we are still being advised to practice the usual pandemic precautions such as:

  • Wearing a mask.
  • Maintaining 6 feet of distance from anyone that you don’t live with.
  • Practicing good hand hygiene.
  • Avoiding large crowds.

It is important to continue to use these precautions to protect everyone around you. Once your friends and family members have also been vaccinated it will be easier to gather safely. You must remember that specific populations won’t be vaccinated yet, such as children under the age of 16. Just because you have been vaccinated doesn’t mean everyone around you has been.

What else do we need to know?

  • Researchers have not yet determined whether the vaccine prevents you from spreading the virus to others once you have been vaccinated.
  • Researchers are also still determining how long immunity will last with the vaccine. We may need to receive booster shots at a later date.  We may even need to continue to get the COVID vaccine every year (much like the flu vaccine).
  • Early evidence is showing that the current vaccines are effective against the coronavirus variants (different strains of the virus). They may be slightly less effective in terms of preventing all symptoms, but so far, they appear to prevent moderate and severe COVID cases. Yes, you can still be infected with the virus, but the vaccine seems to be preventing the worst of it.
  • Another thing we need to keep in mind is that the vaccine is not 100% effective. There is still a small chance that you could contract COVID-19 after being vaccinated. Although experts believe that getting the COVID-19 vaccine may help reduce the severity if you do contract the virus.

The goal of vaccination is to achieve herd immunity. Herd immunity occurs when a high percentage of the community becomes immune to the virus, making the spread of the virus from person to person unlikely. This results in the larger community being protected, including those individuals who can’t be vaccinated, such as children. The best chance we have to end this pandemic is getting as many individuals vaccinated as possible.

Courtney is a Radiation Therapist at Penn Medicine in the Department of Radiation Oncology.  She completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Radiation Therapy from Indiana University, and received her Master’s Degree in Public Health with concentrations in Health Management and Policy and Health Education and Promotion from Benedictine University.  She has fourteen years of experience in radiation therapy, which includes an expertise in proton therapy and pediatrics.  Courtney has worked with OncoLink since 2014, but joined part-time in 2020 as a Global Education Coordinator and is currently developing virtual reality training modules that have been used to train radiation therapists both domestically and internationally.