You have either been vaccinated against COVID-19 or are soon to be in line for one. You may be thinking that you are off the hook and can no longer carry the coronavirus but studies so far are painting a different picture.
If you are wondering if you can still be infected with and spread the coronavirus after getting vaccinated the answer is yes, it’s possible. Experts say the risk is low, but are still studying how well the shots blunt the spread of the virus.
The current COVID-19 vaccines, which include those developed by Sinovac and Pfizer-BioNTech used in Turkey, as well as the Moderna one in the U.S., Sputnik in Russia and the AstraZeneca-Oxford shot in Europe, have proven to be highly effective at preventing people from getting seriously sick with COVID-19. With antibodies rapidly waning after infection, those who previously had COVID-19 have also been encouraged to get vaccinated.
But even if vaccinated people don’t get sick, they might still get infected without showing any symptoms. The Pfizer vaccine, for example, was shown to be 94% effective in preventing asymptomatic COVID-19. Experts think the vaccines would also curb the chances of those people spreading the virus.
“A vaccinated person controls the virus better, so the chances of transmitting will be greatly reduced,” Dr. Robert Gallo a virus expert at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, told the Associated Press (AP).
In Turkey, only a few people who have been fully vaccinated have been infected, and none of them died. And, as the case in Israel has shown, 317 people out of 715,425 became infected a week after receiving both doses – when boosted immunity is expected to kick in. When infection is possible, the question of spreading also arises.
Among the evidence so far: Studies suggesting if people do get infected despite vaccination, they harbor less coronavirus in the nose than the unvaccinated. That makes it much harder to spread.
Trying to settle this question, the U.S. is starting a study of college students willing to undergo daily nasal swab testing.
Given the uncertainty and the arrival of more contagious variants, experts say fully vaccinated people should continue to wear masks and social distance in public and when visiting with unvaccinated people at high risk for severe illness if infected.
“We still have to be cautious,” Gallo said. “The vaccine is essential. But it is not a cure-all that ends the epidemic tomorrow.”
Other factors can also affect the likelihood of a vaccinated person spreading the virus, including immune response to the vaccine, vaccination rates in the community and whether there’s an ongoing surge in cases locally.
“We want to think it’s all or none, but it’s very situation-specific,” Dr. Laraine Lynn Washer, an infectious disease expert at the University of Michigan, told AP.
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