‘You are still very much a vehicle for that virus’: Local health experts say to wait before visiting senior loved ones after getting COVID-19 vaccine

Local Coronavirus Coverage

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – With more people across the region getting vaccinated against COVID-19, health experts caution against rushing to visit with elderly loved ones.

Health experts told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais that waiting at least two weeks after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine would ensure total efficacy of the vaccine. For now, only health care workers in the Tri-Cities region would qualify for this timeframe, as vaccine supply has been limited.

“The data from the studies is all from one or two weeks after the second shot. A lot of people have been saying, you know, there’s a certain level of effectiveness after one shot, we can’t reliably say that yet there are some hints that that’s true but in science, hint is not enough,” ETSU Health Director of COVID Response Dr. Leigh Johnson said. “So, the data that we have, that we know is true is that the maximum effectiveness and immune response is reached about a week or two after the second dose.”

Local paramedic Jim Garbe said that he is confident in the effectiveness of the vaccine.

“Technology, actually allows us to make vaccines better now. This vaccine should be safe, it’s gone through a lot of testing. I believe in the science, I think that this vaccine is a hope, right now, but it is not the end all be all. I still have to wear PPE to keep and decontaminate everything that I touch, so I don’t transfer from one patient to the other, because we’re at very, very high risk of transferring,” he explained. “It’s still out there. I’m not going to stop that just by getting vaccinated. It’s good for me, that would be very selfish of me to just to say, ‘yeah, I’m okay, tough for you.’ So, that would be very selfish of me to take that kind of approach. I hope that it does provide that end of this pandemic. And I just can’t wait for normalcy to continue, you know, after this. I just can’t wait.”

As a first responder, Garbe is no stranger to the harsh realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the anxiety caused by the uncertainties of the unknown.

“It’s very scary. It’s frightening. And especially when you see what it can do firsthand. I think a lot of the laypeople in the region have never seen anybody die in front of them because of COVID-19, and we see it. I couldn’t tell you within the past week how many people I’ve seen, either nearly die or have died because of COVID-19, so it’s a it’s very much a reality for us to see it and hopefully this, once again, this vaccine hopefully will protect us being in the back of an ambulance with someone,” Garbe told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais.

Health experts continue to raise awareness for people to take extra precautions, even after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

“There’s just not enough data yet to see whether someone who’s been vaccinated can pass transmit the virus so we know the best way that I’ve heard it described as we know it prevents disease the vaccine does we don’t know if it prevents infection asymptomatic infection that I could then give to my husband who’s not yet vaccinated,” Dr. Johnson added.

As one or both parties receive the COVID-19 vaccine, health experts urge that both younger and senior members of the family should still wear the proper personal protective equipment, as well as continue to maintain a social distance.

“Continuing to be vigilant and to wear masks is really important and that way. I hope that in a few weeks we get data that says that the vaccine also prevents infection. And then people like you know me and my colleagues who’ve been vaccinated can just breathe a little easier and feel a little better like we’re not going to take it home to our families,” Dr. Johnson told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais. “That’s always the fear that we live with.”

Garbe agreed.

“Still take precautions, because even though you may have a vaccine, it is, it can still be transferred through you, by contact. You may be protected, but it does not protect everyone from being getting that germ from one point A to point B. You are still very much a vehicle for that virus,” Garbe warned.

He added that it might just be best to wait until the end of the pandemic before meeting up with elderly loved ones, as sad as that might be.

“So when we can actually see the statistics online that there are no more cases in the region or, or there may be five cases but that we have isolated or quarantined in this one area. I think that’s when we’re really going to be comfortable start opening up and being able to do a lot more with loved ones and get out,” Garbe said.

But there are circumstances of hope, according to health experts.

“When visiting elderly neighbors, or elderly family members…it’s gonna be a while before I would feel like that is safe, but you know every circumstance is different and there are probably cases where a vaccinated person. It would be very reasonable for them to go see an elderly family member,” Dr. Johnson said.

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