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What Happens After I Get The Vaccine? Experts Say, More Of The Same

An IU Health worker puts a bandaid on the recipient of a covid-19 vaccine.

(Joey Mendolia, WFIU/WTIU News)

Hoosiers aged 65+ are eligible to schedule an appointment to receive the first of two COVID-19 vaccine shots. To do so, visit OurShot.in.gov or call 211.

It’s been one year since the first recorded COVID-19 death in the United States.

In that time, more than 450,000 Americans have died from the disease and nearly 27 million have contracted it. World-wide, the numbers top 2 million dead and more than 103 million cases.

And while January was the deadliest month on record, it was also the month that vaccine distribution ramped up across the nation.

Still, many questions remain: Who is eligible to get the vaccine? When and where can you get it? How long between doses? How long until it takes effect? And do you still have to mask up after getting the vaccine?

This week, Hoosiers 65 and older became eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine.

And more and more vaccination sites are coming online as more hospitals and pharmacies have begun receiving doses. There are now 259 places to get the vaccine around the state, including six in Monroe County.

But, Indiana ranks in the middle of states in vaccine distribution at around 65%. And wait times to get the vaccine can still be weeks. The state currently receives 80,000 doses a week from the federal government. The state has been told to expect an additional 20,000 doses a week soon.

READ MORE: Lilly Partners With State, Health Systems To Create COVID-19 Treatment Sites

Dr. Lana Dbeibo is the director of vaccine initiatives for IU’s COVID-19 Medical Response Team and the director of Infection Prevention at Methodist Hospital.

She says even with the promised influx of more doses on the horizon, it will be a while before enough people can be vaccinated to reach a herd immunity.

“I think at the current rate, it's going to take us months and months to be able to get to that and more than 85% hopefully even more than that immunity for the population,” Dbeibo said. “And we also need to do that fast, so that we can stop the virus from spreading and continuously mutating. The faster we can do this, the better we are off as a country, so that we can start our, you know, trajectory or journey back to normal.”

The time between the first and second vaccine shots depends on which version you are getting. The interval between Pfizer doses is 21 days, while the Moderna interval is 28 days. You should expect to have you second appointment scheduled at the time you receive your first dose.

Dbeibo said that although the vaccines have shown to be 95% effective, you won’t reach that level of protection until two weeks after the second shot. And it means that 1 on 20 people who get the vaccine will not become immune to the virus.

It also remains unclear if you can be infected and transmit the virus even after getting the vaccine. And so far, the vaccines appear to protect you from the mutant strains from Great Britain and South Africa.

So, while you may be partially protected after the first dose — up to 50 percent— and even more so after the second, you still need to follow the CDC guidelines of using preventative measure against the virus – wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing.

“I'm more than two weeks out of my second dose, and I continue to do the same — work from home, social distance and where a mask,” Dbeibo said. “And I would encourage people not to think of it as OK, well, the vaccine didn't change anything, it actually does. It makes me personally not susceptible to getting severely ill. And that is a huge step forward.”

Indiana is currently vaccinating only health care workers, first responders and now those at least 65 years old. The state has yet to announce who or what groups will be allowed to receive the vaccine next.

READ MORE: Lawmakers Halt Bill To Stop Employer-Mandated Vaccines

Almost 600 thousand Hoosiers have received the first dose of the vaccine and more than 150 thousand have been fully vaccinated. There are more than 6 ½ million people in the state.

Dbeibo supports the state’s age-focused plan.

“We are protecting the most vulnerable people who are dying,” Dbeibo said. “They will never get a second chance at this. So, I really appreciate that approach. … As we address all the ages that are high risk and the vulnerable population, it might make sense to start working on those who are essential to our work infrastructure.”

Dbeibo said getting everyone on board with getting the vaccine is critical to reaching a herd immunity, which is 70% of the population.

“I think every institution and every health department and all of us are working on, you know, addressing those concerns of hesitancy, because we do understand that many of them are based in real fears,” Dbeibo said. “But we just need to address them scientifically.”

A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that people in rural American are most reluctant to get the vaccine. And are more skeptical about it.

The study said 62% of rural respondents said getting vaccinated was a personal choice rather than everyone’s responsibility to protect others. And 50% said the seriousness of the virus has been exaggerated by media.

The study showed that 86% rural Americans trust their local doctor to provide them the best information on COVID-19 than government sources.

Kerry Thomson, the executive director of IU’s Center for Rural Engagement, said getting information on the virus and the vaccine out through local doctors is important.

“We know is that if we can, if we can tap already established trusting relationships, to educate the public about the value of the vaccine, as well as any risks that are out there with the vaccine, then we have a population that can make those decisions based on the trust or relationships that they have,” she said.

And while Dbeibo said with the vaccine there is light at the end of the tunnel, now is not the time to relax in the fight against COVID-19.

“It is more important now to practice those because we have new variants and new mutants are risky, that have higher transmission rates,” Dbeibo said. “And when we see higher transmission, we know that it’s always followed by higher deaths.”

To sign up for the vaccine, visit ourshot.in.gov or call 211.

For the latest news and resources about COVID-19, bookmark our Coronavirus In Indiana page here.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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