If you have questions about what changes after you're fully vaccinated, you're not alone!
This blog is a transcribed Q&A from the COVID-19 Tele Town Hall on April 5, 2021. Dr. Jane Kelly, the Assistant State Epidemiologist with the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), met with us and your community to answer questions about wearing masks, traveling, and COVID-19 testing after vaccination.
During this Tele Town Hall, Dr. Kelly gave a presentation on the three COVID-19 vaccines currently available, talked about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines, discussed who is currently eligible to receive a vaccine shot, outlined what comes next after vaccination, and answered questions from the public. The call was facilitated by Richland Library’s Community and Media Relations Coordinator Emily Stoll.
Q: Can people who are vaccinated still catch or spread COVID-19?
A: This was a big concern in the beginning. We didn’t know, and we were very worried that a person could get vaccinated, get exposed to the virus, pick it up, not know it because they have no symptoms, and be contagious and spread it for others. What we have found out very recently is that yes, it’s possible, but it’s rare. Once you’re fully vaccinated—and by that, I mean at least two weeks after your second shot for the two-shot vaccines or two weeks after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine—once you’re fully vaccinated, your chances of getting COVID-19 even with no symptoms decreased 90%. So, yes, it is still possible to get if you’re vaccinated, to catch it and spread it, but the chances of that are very very small. Right now, because it’s not at 100% and because we are still concerned that there are a lot of people who are not vaccinated yet, we are asking people who have been vaccinated to continue wearing their mask out in public. Keep your distance, wear your mask, do things like what you’ve been doing out in public. If you want to get together with other friends who are fully vaccinated though, that’s okay, and we’ll talk about that in a few minutes. But for right now, just to repeat myself, we were very worried in the beginning that people vaccinated could catch and spread COVID-19. We’re not as worried about that anymore. Vaccination really cuts down on your chances of spreading the virus to others.
Q: Should you take pain relievers before or after your second dose?
A: We do not recommend taking pain relievers before the dose and here’s why. Number one, the symptoms that a person may get, and not everybody gets symptoms after they’re vaccinated, but if you’re going to get symptoms, it’s not the day you get vaccinated. It’s only after hours, maybe 12 hours later, or the next day that you might start to get symptoms. The reason you don’t want to get pre-medicated, [why] you don’t want to take medications ahead of time, is it might interfere with your immune response. So, the immune response is more than just making antibodies. There are a bunch of different pieces that go into it, and part of it is when you’re given the vaccine, your body sends out a signal to what I think of as the immune system first responders, and those first responders go to the scene of where you got your vaccine, where you got your shot, and they start a process to stimulate the rest of your immune system. You might accidentally block that partially if you took ibuprofen ahead of time. We recommend after you get your vaccine, if you start to get symptoms, then don’t suffer. Go ahead and take something. But don’t take it ahead of time. You don’t want to interfere with the vaccine’s interaction with your immune system.
Q: Do you have insight about the CDC’s recommendation about being inside indoor spaces without face coverings for those for those who have been vaccinated, and how you might see that applying in the workplace?
A: CDC recently came out with recommendations that if you are fully vaccinated you can get together with other people who are fully vaccinated indoors, like life has returned to normal—no wearing masks, sitting together at the table for a meal or playing a game of cards, no need for physical distancing. Now that’s between people who are fully vaccinated. Remember, if you just got one dose of vaccine in your system, you’re partially protected. You’re not fully protected. People who are fully vaccinated can get together with other people who are fully vaccinated in private settings. Fully vaccinated people can also get together with people who aren’t vaccinated but who are very low risk. I think of this like the grandparent/grandchild rule: grandparents who are fully vaccinated can get together with their grandkids because, [though] your grandkids may not be vaccinated, they are really low risk of getting severe disease. Now, in public, that’s a different story because we still worry when you go to the grocery store or go someplace in the public venue that there are going to be people that you’ll come across who are not vaccinated. And you don’t know, they might be not only not-vaccinated, they might have some chronic disease that puts them at higher risk for severe disease. So, in public, we are still recommending face coverings even for people who are fully vaccinated—not so much to protect themselves, but to protect other people.
Now in the workplace, that’s a tough decision. If everybody’s fully vaccinated, it’s easy. [If] everybody’s fully vaccinated and they’re only working with each other, then they don’t need to wear masks, but most people who are in the workplace are working with either customers who might not be vaccinated or with other workers who might not be vaccinated. So, at least for right now, while we still have a lot of virus circulating, at least for right now, we are asking people to wear masks when they are in the public domain and also when they are in the workplace—unless it’s a special situation—and I can imagine some special situations. A work team, perhaps, wants to meet in the conference room and they are all fully vaccinated; then they can meet in the conference room without masks. That’s the CDC recommendation.
Q: I have a four-year-old granddaughter who is in daycare. I’m 83 years old, and … whenever I am around her or go visit, I wear a mask. And I’ve also had both shots of the Pfizer. Should I still wear a mask around my granddaughter?
A: Thank you for asking that question. If you have had both shots of Pfizer, so you’re a person that I would call “fully vaccinated.” Your granddaughter, if she has no medical problems—you know, if she’s not a special needs child or child with type one diabetes—if she is a healthy four-year-old, she is at very low risk of severe disease. So, if you want to hug your granddaughter, you can. This is based on the science of understanding that people who are fully vaccinated are [at a] very low chance of having a contagion, having the contagious virus, and on the fact that children at that age have very low risk of severe disease. It is safe for you to be around her without a mask. And I would—if people are still puzzling over this—I would recommend looking at the CDC recommendations. You can just Google “CDC fully vaccinated guidelines,” and they’ve got a bunch of different examples of what you can and cannot do.
To see the CDC recommendations for fully vaccinated people, click here.
Q: I have completed both my vaccinations of Pfizer and I have a sibling that’s in a nursing home and I’m under the impression that everyone there has gotten their vaccination. What are your recommendations in reference to visiting him or her at that location? I am truly concerned about that and would love to go and visit my sibling but [feel] uneasy about that.
A: If both you and your sibling are fully vaccinated, you should be able to freely visit, no mask, no distancing. The only exception would be if the nursing home is in the middle of handling an outbreak, in which case they might need to be applying some special rules. You should contact them first to be sure it is okay to visit.
Q: Also curious, Dr. Kelly, what are your thoughts about the latest recommendation that came out up toward the end of last week from the CDC about fully vaccinated people being able to travel again? And does this recommendation apply to all methods of transportation whether it be car, train, plane…?
A: Yeah! Isn’t this good news! So, if you are fully vaccinated, being able to travel without having to get tested ahead of time, being able to travel without having to quarantine when you get to your destination, that is good news. So those recommendations from CDC were: if you’re fully vaccinated, you can travel, you don’t need quarantine, and you don’t need to get tested, unless you’re going, for example, to a foreign country that requires it for admission to that country. But in general, you don’t have those requirements. However, just like I was saying, wear your mask in public. You should wear your mask and stay distant from people when you’re on public transportation whether it’s a plane or a train. If you’re driving in your private car, obviously you don’t need those things.
Q: If you are fully vaccinated, do you need to continue to get tested for COVID-19 in a return-to-work situation?
A: Most of the time, no. And I say “most of the time” because there may be some peculiar work situations. For example, healthcare workers or workers in healthcare settings who are maybe working in a cancer ward where people are very immunocompromised, their immune systems are doing poorly, there might be some workplace stipulations where they ask you to get tested routinely. Same thing with sometimes in nursing homes. If you work in a nursing home, they will ask you to get tested routinely. But in general, if you are fully vaccinated and you have no symptoms, you do not need to be doing routine testing for [the] SARS-CoV-2 virus. For example, let’s say you were fully vaccinated, and you were exposed. You know, a coworker, somebody you know, had COVID-19 and you were in close contact. As long as you don’t have symptoms, you do not need to quarantine. You do not need to test. If you have symptoms, you should get tested because there have been a few breakthrough cases; but in general, no, you should not. I know there are a couple of strange workplace situations where there are going to be exceptions, but if you’re in a workplace where you are being routine[ly] tested, you might want to ask your employer: are we sure that we still need to do this? Because they could contact DHEC, and we could talk about the situation.
Q: Well, my question was once you complete your first and second dose, if that’s what you get, Pfizer or Moderna, and we have to get a booster in the future—and I don’t know if you can answer this—do you have to continue with the same type that you started with? Just saying now, if you get a booster do you have to continue with the same one you initially got?
A: Probably not. … And we still don’t know whether we’ll need boosters. We might not need boosters. But probably you would not need to continue with the same one. But let me just build on this question a little bit. In general, if you started with Pfizer for your first dose, you want Pfizer to be your second dose. Same thing if you started with Moderna; you want to get Moderna as your second dose. You don’t want to mix and match. But looking into the future, if there are boosters that are needed in the future, you probably will not need to stay with the same vaccine brand.
Q: Dr. Kelly, if people would like to get in contact with you directly, how can they do that?
A: Thank you for asking that. Please, if you have further questions, please email me because if you have a question, many other people do as well, so it helps me understand what learning needs are out there or what information we need to get out to people. So, I’m going to give you my email address. It is firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s my email address, and you’re more than welcome to email me and thank you for participating tonight.
Still have questions that weren’t answered? Check out this blog, or email Dr. Kelly at email@example.com. For more information about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine in South Carolina, click here. For additional COVID-19 resources and information, click here.