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Have Questions About The COVID-19 Vaccine? Here Are Some Answers

Person getting vaccine
Zoran Zeremski
Adobe Stock
All Wisconsinites 16 and older are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

All Wisconsinites 16 and older are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Many are hoping this will mark the beginning of the end of the pandemic here in Wisconsin.

But there are a lot of lingering questions about what vaccination will really mean for our community. As the dean of the College of Nursing at UW-Milwaukee, Kim Litwack has been fielding a lot of these questions and she joins Lake Effect to answer a few of them.

If you’ve received the full amount of the vaccine (one or two shots, depending on the brand), when will you be considered fully immunized?

“Full immunity is considered to be approximately two weeks after the second shot, if it’s a Pfizer or Moderna vaccination,” says Litwack. “If it’s a J&J – Johnson and Johnson – where you only need one, again, it’s about two weeks afterwards.”

Why does it take two weeks after the last dose of the vaccine to be fully immunized?

“It takes a little while for the body to build an immune response and two weeks seems to be when that is optimized,” Litwack explains. She says that since the vaccine takes a couple weeks to kick in, she advises people to continue wearing masks and socially distancing (even with other vaccinated people) until that two-week period is over.

If you’re fully vaccinated, do you need to continue wearing a mask and socially distancing?

It depends on the situation, she says. “We don’t know whether everyone’s vaccinated. If you’re in a closed circle or if you’ve expanded your circle and you know everyone’s vaccinated, [you can] enjoy being together with friends and family again [without masks or distancing],” says Litwack. When in public or in groups where you don’t know everyone’s vaccination status, you should continue wearing a mask and socially distancing.

Why should we continue wearing a mask and socially distancing, if we’ve already been vaccinated?

“It’s just good practice,” say Litwack. “We want to prevent exposure, we want to prevent the spread of COVID-19. So it’s just good safety when you’re in a situation where you really don’t know [the vaccination status of the people you’re near.]”

Can people who are vaccinated spread COVID-19 to unvaccinated people?

Litwack says, “Theoretically, no. We shouldn’t be carriers once we are fully vaccinated.” Unless a vaccinated person has contracted COVID-19, which is very unlikely but possible, they can’t spread COVID-19 to other people, she says.

There are new variants of COVID-19 that have been spreading rapidly. If you get the vaccine, should you still be concerned about catching one of these new variants?

Even if you’re fully vaccinated, you could still get COVID-19 but the symptoms will likely be better, Litwack says. “One thing we do know about the COVID-19 vaccines, number one: they’re safe. And number two: they prevent serious disease. So even with the variants and if someone were to come down with symptoms or test positive because of a variant, ideally [the vaccine is] going to keep them out of the hospital, out of the ICU, and keep them from dying,” she explains.

The COVID-19 virus has been evolving rapidly, similar to the flu. Could we be looking at a future where we need yearly COVID-19 vaccinations?

“It’s too soon to tell on the COVID-19 vaccine at this time,” says Litwack. The yearly flu vaccine is a booster shot to enhance the body’s immune response to the influenza virus, and it may be necessary for COVID-19 to have boosters, she says.

Joy Powers is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.