Continue to wear masks, distance even after COVID-19 vaccination

While experts continue learning more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide in real-world conditions, it is important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to help stop the pandemic, even after receiving the COVID-19 vaccination.

“Until public immunity is achieved across the board, all recommended protective measures must continue,” cautioned Dr. Akram Sadaka, director of Public Health and Occupational Medicine at Naval Health Clinic Patuxent River. “This should include mask wearing, hand washing, crowd avoidance and physical distancing.”

Sadaka explained that individuals who have completed the vaccine series may still be able to get infected with the virus without getting sick from it, due to the protective effects of the vaccine.

“If they get infected, those vaccinated subjects can potentially shed the active virus to others who aren’t yet vaccinated without necessarily having any COVID-19 symptoms themselves,” Sadaka said. “This is why it is prudent and necessary for all of us — vaccinated or otherwise — to adhere to all of the personal protection measures outlined.”

According to the CDC, experts do not yet know what percentage of people would need to get vaccinated to achieve public immunity to COVID-19. Public immunity is defined as enough people in a community who are protected from getting a disease because they’ve already had it, or they’ve been vaccinated against it, making it difficult for the disease to spread from person to person; and it also protects those who cannot be vaccinated. Dr. Sadaka believes public immunity cannot happen effectively until approximately three-quarters of the entire population is vaccinated.

“The good news is that [the government is] moving quickly to vaccinate as many as safely as possible in the coming months,” he noted. “All we need is to put a vaccine in everyone’s arm sooner than later.”

Health clinic personnel at Pax River and branch clinics have been vaccinating active-duty service members for the past six weeks or so, following the DoD’s phased distribution plan.

“Any service member can, in due time, get vaccinated according to the prioritization schema that has been published and updated recently,” Sadaka noted. “Each command should have their active-duty service members vaccine-ready according to the schema. The clinic communicates available appointments for each tier/category to each command, then they schedule their members accordingly. We don’t offer walk-ins for COVID-19 vaccination at this time.”

For updated information about the virus, visit cdc.gov and click on the prominently displayed link “Learn More About COVID-19.”