COVID-19 cases remain elevated in many U.S. states, despite a largely successful rollout of the life-saving vaccines this year.
While a single shot of a two-dose vaccine by Pfizer or Moderna does provide some protection against COVID-19, there is still a chance you could get the virus in the weeks between both shots. The developers of the vaccine encountered this problem from the onset of their tests.
It begs the question, what should you do if you get sick between doses?
In short, the timing of your second shot should be altered.
First thing's first: per the Centers for Disease Control, you should not plan to get vaccinated (or have contact with anyone) until you've self-isolated for at least 10 days and until your COVID symptoms resolve.
Self-isolation is extremely important to keeping others safe, but it's also necessary for your body to develop an immune response against the virus to guard against another infection.
As long as you're cleared to come out of isolation, you can be immunized on-schedule or as close to schedule as you can. However, the CDC has asked healthcare providers to encourage some patients to wait to get their second dose so people with no protection against the virus can begin the inoculation process.
"...[B]ecause this is such a precious resource, the CDC has asked us to consider delaying the second dose by 30 days from the onset of symptoms, because it allows other people to get immunized ... it's a courtesy to our fellow citizens," said Paul Pottinger, infectious disease expert at the University of Washington, told Huffington Post.
Having COVID-19 antibodies reduces the imperative for the vaccine in the short term, notes Dr. Mark Loafman of Cook County Health in Illinois. The antibodies will spell you for a while before your second dose.
"You have some time, a window, and it's thought to be a minimum two to three months of good, healthy immunity from the virus itself," he tells NBC News. "So take that opportunity to convalesce and recover, and then get or finish the COVID vaccination when it will start to become helpful again."
Because the vaccines tend to trigger brief COVID-like symptoms of fever, chills and body aches, people are best served to postpone their second dose until they feel fully recovered. Those side effects will feel more severe in people who are weakened from bouts with the virus.
Fully vaccinated people are not 100 percent protected from COVID-19, but studies have shown over and over again that vaccinated people are far less likely to develop severe symptoms if they do get infected. There were no COVID-19-related deaths among fully-vaccinated people in the vaccine studies.
A recent CDC study reported that a single dose of Pfizer or Moderna's COVID vaccines was 80 percent effective in preventing COVID infections. Immunity jumps to at least 90 percent two weeks after the second dose.
A person is not considered fully vaccinated until two weeks after their second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
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