Californians over age 65 are now eligible for the coronavirus vaccine. The long lines at the vaccine centers show how eager people are to get protected. Many families are already making plans to see one another in person now that parents, grandparents, and the elderly in home care and in care homes will be ‘safe’. Unfortunately, it’s not quite time to throw COVID precautions to the wind, because the vaccinated aren’t virus-proof – they can still catch and spread COVID-19. Seniors, families, and caregivers in San Diego need to understand why getting vaccinated isn’t the end of the pandemic and its restrictions.

There are many reasons to continue to be cautious about coronavirus exposure. Some health authorities explain why:

  • The vaccine won’t prevent you from getting sick

The Mayo Clinic advises: “After you get both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, it takes about two weeks for your body to build up protection. But even then, you could become infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. Keep in mind that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is 95% effective in preventing the COVID-19 virus. The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is 94.1% effective in preventing the COVID-19 virus. While your risk of getting the COVID-19 virus after being vaccinated is low, it is possible.

  • Vaccinated people might still be able to spread COVID-19 after getting vaccinated

Time Magazine reminds us: “If the shots turn out not to stop asymptomatic infections entirely, even your vaccinated parents could feasibly get your family sick if they picked something up while traveling to see you. Or, if you happened to be exposed to the virus, your parents could potentially carry it and pass it to others. And, while the authorized COVID-19 vaccines are very effective, there is always a tiny chance of them failing, leaving your parents at risk of illness.”

  • Children can’t get vaccinated yet, so vaccinated family members are still a risk to them

Per the Parents Magazine website: “’There are no vaccines currently available for children under the age of 16,’ says Dr. Sandra Adams, PhD, Virologist and Professor of Biology at Montclair State University. ‘Although children have not been shown to get as sick from COVID-19, it is still possible for them to catch the virus [themselves] and [also] unknowingly spread it.’ In other words, your kids could possibly contract the coronavirus from vaccinated family members.”

  • People who have had COVID-19 are not as immune as they think and still need to get the vaccine

The CDC confirms:At this time, experts do not know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. The immunity someone gains from having an infection, called natural immunity, varies from person to person. Some early evidence suggests natural immunity may not last very long.

  • Experts don’t know how long immunity from the vaccine will last either

The vaccine is simply too new for doctors to know if this initial vaccine will last a lifetime, or if yearly shots will be required. The flu shot is recommended every year because the flu mutates so much. Last year’s flu antibodies don’t match this year’s flu, which makes a new shot the best way to stay healthy. Only time will allow experts to determine if COVID-19 mimics this pattern or stays stable.

All the experts, including Dr. Fauci, advise that life in America won’t return to ‘normal’ until we’ve reached herd immunity. This means a minimum of 85% vaccination rate, possibly higher – too much is still unknown about how the vaccine works. Children, too. That may not be until the fall, assuming a child-approved vaccine becomes available soon. So what can you do? Continue to take the usual pandemic precautions, whether you’ve had the vaccine or not: maintain social distancing, stay home as much as possible, wear a mask, and wash your hands. If you must see family in person, stay outdoors, hug while keeping your faces turned away from one another, and reduce your exposure as much as possible. Don’t let down your guard, the vaccine won’t make you invincible!