On Wednesday I received my covid-19 vaccine. I had become eligible for it the previous Wednesday but finding an appointment was not easy and took me a few days. I finally got one at a CVS drug store. The downside was that it was in San Jose which is about a 90 minute drive for me. The upside is that they were giving the Johnson&Johnson vaccine which is a single dose. So I am now done. I also enjoyed that for the first time in a year, I actually went further than a couple of miles from my home and I enjoyed the change of scenery. Soon after the lockdown began last March, I filled the gas tank in my car in case of an emergency and when I checked on Wednesday before I set out, I had done only 240 miles for the entire year. The trip to San Jose added about 150 miles in just one day.
I expected that the following day I would experience the widely publicized side effects such as fever, chills, aches, and pains, and planned to spend the next day or two in bed, my usual routine when feeling out of sorts. But there was nothing, nothing at all, not even soreness in the arm or near the vaccinated area. If I had been part of a clinical trial, I would have thought that I had been given the placebo. It has only been nearly 48 hours since I got the vaccine and it is possible that the side effects may kick in later. But so far, so good.
According to CDC guidelines, vaccinated people, after allowing two weeks after the second (or only) dose for the immune system to respond, can congregate even indoors in small groups of close family and friends who have also been vaccinated and are also being cautious. But there are still limits.
We’re still learning how vaccines will affect the spread of COVID-19. After you’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you should keep taking precautions in public places like wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces until we know more.
Some epidemiologists are more cautious than the CDC, suggesting waiting for four weeks after being fully vaccinated.
I do not plan to change my life much just because I am vaccinated. As the CDC recommends, I will still wear a mask and practice social distancing and avoid indoor settings outside my home. I will continue to wash my hands regularly and use hand sanitizer if I cannot access water. This is partly because I am not sure if I can still infect others and partly because mask wearing compliance is enhanced by social pressure. People will not know that I have been vaccinated and I do not want my masklessness to encourage similar behavior by others. What the vaccine has done is give me much greater peace of mind about the danger of succumbing to the coronavirus. This is no small thing.
Incidentally I learned something about virus transmission. We have been told that you wearing a mask mainly protects others from you but does not protect you from others. I was puzzled by this because it seemed like this meant that the mask barrier only operated one-way, preventing the virus from going out of your body and not from coming in. That seemed counter-intuitive for a simple physical barrier. I have now learned that this has nothing to do with the nose and mouth that the mask covers which does operate both ways. It is that the virus can enter us via our eyes but eyes do not emit viruses. This ties in with the advice to constantly wash hands and not touch the face and eyes. Wearing glasses all the time (as I do) reduces the risk of infection via the eyes but goggles and face shields are even better. One learns new things all the time.