SUMTER, S.C. — This month was an exciting one for Kathy Murdock of Sumter. Murdock, who’s 70 and a registered nurse, was finally able to get fully vaccinated for COVID-19.
“I wasn’t nervous. I was looking forward to it,” Murdock said. After both shots, however, is when the confusion came. She wondered, ‘what can I safely do now?’
“I wish I did know; you know? Right now, nothing seems to have changed,” Murdock said, “because they’re still telling you, continue to wear your masks, continue to social distance and you’re like, okay, when does it matter if I took a vaccine or not?”
According to Dr. Helmut Albrecht of Prisma Health, those fully vaccinated have less chance of getting severely ill or dying from the virus, but precautions should still be taken while community spread of the virus remains high.
“The vaccine is not 100 percent effective,” Dr. Albrecht said. “If both parties have had the vaccine, it’s going to be extraordinarily unlikely that you’ll find a scenario where you’ll transmit this, but in large scale settings with a lot of yelling, chanting, coughing, sneezing people, it’s a different scenario.”
He says those vaccinated should consider the risk of the gathering or activity before participating, keeping in mind that, they could still get or pass along the virus.
“It depends, first on your risk, so a visit with your healthy brother is different than a visit to your grandmother who has recently had a lung transplant,” Dr. Albrecht said. “I think you can expand your bubble. I think you can have the dinners that we told you not to have for Christmas…. You’re less likely to pay a price for those or for your errors that you always make, but it’s still not enough to gamble in high risk situations.”
For now, he said continuing to follow safety guidance like mask wearing is best.
“It will be a process. The more people vaccinated, the less virus circulates in the community,” Dr. Albrecht said. “It will be safer to open up scenarios without masking. Right now, we’re not there yet.”
Dr. Albrecht added that those vaccinated should wait a couple of weeks after getting the second vaccination shot for the best protection. Also, he said, those who have been vaccinated do not have to quarantine if exposed to the virus, but should wear a mask and monitor symptoms.