May 21, 2021
UNC Health Talk
More than 45 percent of American adults are now fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you’re among those who have not received a shot, here are four benefits of vaccination to consider.
1. Vaccination protects you from dying or getting seriously ill from COVID-19.
COVID-19 is a very serious and dangerous virus that has killed more than 584,000 people in the United States in less than a year and a half. Clinical trial data for all three available vaccines show that they were 100 percent effective in preventing virus-related deaths and hospitalizations.
“The goal of any vaccine is to keep you from getting very sick and needing to go to the hospital or dying,” says UNC Health infectious diseases specialist David A. Wohl, MD. “All three COVID-19 vaccines have been tested and have proven they achieve this goal. In clinical research studies, all the vaccines were 100 percent effective in preventing hospitalizations and death.”
2. Vaccination significantly reduces your chance of getting COVID-19.
If you get vaccinated for COVID-19, it becomes much less likely that you’ll be infected with the virus and pass it on to others. Real-world effectiveness of the vaccines using national surveillance data in Israel demonstrated very high effectiveness for protection against asymptomatic infection—those infections that people don’t know they have but still can pass on.
The real-world data from Israel, which has a high vaccination rate, show that the vaccines are effectively preventing infection and transmission between people, says Emily Sickbert-Bennett, PhD, director of UNC Medical Center Infection Prevention. “The effectiveness data is very, very strong and very promising, even given the variants that we’re seeing. Vaccination is absolutely the way forward.”
3. Once vaccinated, you can more safely spend time with friends and loved ones.
After you’re fully vaccinated, you can safely visit other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks, and you can safely visit with unvaccinated people from one other household without wearing masks.
“The CDC is stating that the risk is low enough that they can encourage people who are all fully vaccinated to get together in small groups,” Dr. Sickbert-Bennett says.
However, public health officials say it is still not safe for unvaccinated people from more than one other household to get together.
“Two households with unvaccinated individuals getting together creates more of a pathway for transmission between those unvaccinated individuals,” Dr. Sickbert-Bennett says.
If you are not vaccinated, you need to continue to wear a mask, especially if you are considered high-risk for complications from COVID-19. Adults over the age of 65 and anyone who has obesity or another serious chronic medical condition, including high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease, are considered high-risk.
“You want to avoid having multiple households get together with unimmunized members of their household, but if your household is fully immunized, then that opens the door for your house to host others,” Dr. Sickbert-Bennett says. “If you have an entire household who is immunized, that is definitely a game-changer in terms of CDC recommendations.”
For now, only children 12 and up can be vaccinated, but it’s OK for unvaccinated children to be around fully vaccinated adults, such as their grandparents, according to health officials. Vaccinating adolescents now—and younger children when it’s available—further reduces risk of children getting and spreading the virus.
4. Once vaccinated, you can stop wearing a mask in most settings.
Last week, the CDC eased indoor mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people, saying they could safely stop wearing masks in most places, including indoor spaces. You can resume activities without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart, except where required by laws, regulations, or business and workplace guidance.
“By getting your entire family vaccinated when it’s their turn, you can be less reliant on masking,” Dr. Sickbert-Bennett says.
The new guidance still calls for wearing masks in certain crowded indoor settings such as buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters. In addition, the CDC no longer recommends that fully vaccinated people wear masks outdoors, even in crowds.
If you’re vaccinated and you travel within the United States, you do not need to get tested before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel. You will still need to wear a mask on planes, trains and public transit, so be sure to always have one ready and carry hand sanitizer for when you can’t practice frequent hand-washing.