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Will the Vaccine Set Grandpa Free?



"We are approaching a new year, and my father desperately wants to return to his usual activities. Since he is in his 80s, he plans to be first in line when they vaccinate his age group. What we are wondering, as his children, is when it will be safe for him to venture out? Will it be right after he gets the first dose, or will he need the second dose before he is secure? Can he stop wearing a mask once he is vaccinated? Will he be completely safe?"



These are all very good questions at a time like this. We’re all facing this pandemic together. 

I applaud your father’s take-charge attitude, as I share his desire for a solution. Getting vaccinated is the smart thing to do to protect himself the best he can. 

On the day that this column is being written, one vaccine, from Pfizer, has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It’s a two-dose setup. Apparently, most of the immunity comes from the second dose. A second vaccine may likely be approved from Moderna. That vaccine is also a two injection process.

Both vaccines have a high efficacy rate of 90 plus percent in clinical trials, so vaccination is a very good idea. It may indeed protect your father from becoming seriously ill with COVID. 

During the next few weeks and months, it will be very important for healthcare providers and the general public to closely follow the guidance put out by the Center for Disease Control (CDC,) as it is updated when information becomes available.

It is likely that once your father has received the second injection that he can move about in the community with less fear. That doesn’t mean that he can’t still be exposed to the virus (he can), and it is currently unknown  if a vaccinated person can still spread the virus after exposure. 

There is not enough information now to say how long he will have immunity, how much he will develop, and if he can still receive and transmit the virus. 

He will still need to wear a mask and stay a safe distance from others. What he will be able to do is move about with a little less fear of contracting this life-threatening disease. It’s too soon to say when we can stop wearing masks, staying apart, and washing hands frequently. There is just not enough information available yet to provide certainty. We’re dealing with a new disease and we are all learning a lot about its complexity.

I wish you well in this journey of keeping your father safe.


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