LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — With Los Angeles County giving out just second doses of the coronavirus vaccine this week, thousands of local people 65 and older will soon be fully vaccinated against the virus.
While the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines showed efficacies of 95% and 94.1% respectively in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infections, officials stress that they are not meant to relieve us from taking important safety precautions.
Devon Hocker of Orange County hasn’t hugged her mom and stepdad since March of last year.
“With grocery deliveries and myself and my sister living nearby, we do the drop-offs and with the drop-offs, we don’t even open the door, we wear masks,” said Hocker.
By the end of the month, both of her parents should be fully vaccinated, so the family is hoping to reunite for Easter.
They’ll still be careful, especially since Hocker’s mother — a cancer survivor — in a high-risk category.
“Everyone will have their own table and there will be no cross-contamination with food,” Hocker said. “And if anyone goes into the house, they’ll wear a mask.”
Infectious disease experts say that level of carefulness is a good plan to have even after being vaccinated.
“I would say that until a larger percentage of our population is vaccinated or immune, we need to keep doing the same public health measures we have been doing,” said Dr. Brad Spellberg, Chief Medical Officer LA+USC Medical Center
Spellberg said we still need to keep our distance, wear our masks, and not gather in large groups, even if our loved ones have been vaccinated, because it will be months before we reach herd immunity.
“If you go into a room of one person who is immune, and 15 people who aren’t, those people can be vectors for that virus and it can keep hopping around,” Spellberg said.
Infectious disease doctor Jeffrey Galpin says we still need to be concerned with the variants of the virus, and says that older people don’t do as well with immunity from vaccines.
“Their immunity won’t make as good antibodies, as good t-cell or cell-mediated immunity,” Galpin said.
Dr. Galpin and Dr. Spellberg both say that hugging should be okay after both parties have received the two doses of their vaccine, but it’s still important to not kiss or get your faces close together.
“Kids have a sense of immortality. I don’t want adults to have that because they got the vaccine. It will backfire,” Galpin said.
All of the restrictions can feel overwhelming, but both doctors think we will be able to start to let our guard down in the summer when good herd immunity might be achieved.