DARLINGTON COUNTY, S.C. (WIS)- More than two million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been put into people’s arms in South Carolina, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.
With almost a fifth of South Carolina residents completely vaccinated and more than a third who have started the vaccination process, there is some confusion about what fully immunized people can and can’t safely do when around others.
Below are some of the questions people had right after receiving their second dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and answers from McLeod Health’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Jeremy Robertson.
The below quotes have been lightly edited for clarity.
ROBBY PEED: What percent of protection do I have now versus what I will have in the future?
DR. JEREMY ROBERTSON: There are studies that indicate after your first dose you have a decent amount of protection...probably 80 percent or so.
You are not fully vaccinated until two weeks after that second dose…I am not aware of what that [percent] would be a week after that second dose.
PATRICIA SELLERS: How long will the protection from the vaccine last?
DR. JEREMY ROBERTSON: We don’t have a great idea.
That’s one thing as more studies come out and we get to know these vaccines even better we will have an indication of that.
At this time, we feel like the vaccines create a good immune response to COVID I think it’s going to be lasting.
We don’t know if it is going to be a year, longer, or a little shorter.
GATHERING WITH UNVACCINATED PEOPLE
PAMELA BILLANTI: Now that I’m fully vaccinated what can be my interactions with people who are not vaccinated both inside and outside?
DR. ROBERTSON: I’ll refer to the CDC guidelines on that.
Inside with fully vaccinated people is good.
Outside is much safer...unvaccinated people inside need to be low risk [of getting seriously ill from COVID-19].
JANET PIGATT: How long will it be until we can all get together after we get the vaccine?
DR. ROBERTSON: I think the important thing is if it is a low-risk group and people are fully vaccinated, then you are much better protected. And personally, I would feel much more comfortable in that kind of situation.
If you are around a limited number of people, like a single household, and they are unvaccinated and they are low risk, no medical comorbidities, that is considered to be a low-risk activity.
MARY MORSCH: When is it safe for us to go out to eat in restaurants?
DR. ROBERTSON: Dining indoors has been defined as a higher-risk type of activity.
We are seeing less COVID in our community, as you get vaccinated, and you are fully vaccinated you are better protected.
But I would still follow those measures that are out there to the best of my ability.
RENIA PAUL-PATTERSON: How worried should I be [as a teacher] about going back face-to-face with kids coming back now that I’m vaccinated?
DR. JEREMY ROBERTSON: If you got one of the vaccines of that two-dose [regiment] and you’re already to that point of the second dose you have pretty good protection at that point.
You’re not fully vaccinated until two weeks after that, but I would say it’s a pretty safe environment for you.
Continue to do masking and the other measures, but you have pretty good protection.
CONCERNS SURROUNDING THE VARIANTS
JEAH WOLFE: Now that I’m vaccinated how worried should I be about the variants?
DR. ROBERTSON: The data we have now right now about the variants are the vaccines we have are effective against the variants...as far as the variants we know about.
I feel comfortable saying as a fully vaccinated person I’m protected well against those variants that are out there.
Our earlier vaccines were tested in an environment where we didn’t have the variants. The Johnson and Johnson was tested with the variants.
So, we know there is going to be some diminish of the effectiveness.
But they are so good to begin with and I still think they are going to protect you from severe disease, hospitalization, and death, which are ultimately the main things we are worried about.