As the United States moves closer and closer to mass vaccination against Covid-19, a curious trend has begun to emerge on social media and elsewhere: Well-intentioned people downplay the benefits of vaccination, often arguing that vaccinated people still pose a significant transmission risk and should not do things like spend time at home unmasked with their friends and family.
However, this advice is not only unjustified, it is also counterproductive. Vaccinated people are unlikely to contract or transmit the virus, especially to other vaccinated people, and they should feel free to socialize in a more normal way. Suggesting that life shouldn’t change at all after the vaccine is a good way to discourage people who are on the fence from getting the vaccine.
You do not have to do it look away to see this kind of vaccine scolding on Twitter, to the point where the argument itself has now become a mature source of parody. The same logic has been used to smear some public health experts as well.
Last Monday, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rochelle Walensky, attended the Rachel Maddow Show to talk about COVID-19 and vaccines. At some point when discussing new CDC research, Walensky said, “Our CDC data today suggests that vaccinated people do not carry the virus, do not get sick, and that it is not only found in clinical trials, but also it is also real. -World data “.
Walensky’s comments were soon criticized by outside observers, including scientists, as not completely accurate and therefore irresponsible. A day later, the CDC was forced to retract its comments, telling the New York Times that “Walensky spoke extensively during this interview” and that it was possible that “some people who are fully vaccinated could get Covid-19.”
Walensky should have chosen his words more cautiously, but the firestorm that erupted around his comments and the subsequent framing of the CDC’s response was also exaggerated and imprecise. The New York Times history In the new CDC statement, for example, it had the headline: “Can vaccinated people spread the virus? We don’t know, scientists say. “Technically true, but misleading, given what do know, that it is that vaccines prevent infections to a great extent.
The CDC data that Walensky referenced found that the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna were not only highly effective in preventing disease caused by the coronavirus, its intended purpose, but were also 90% effective in preventing detectable levels of coronavirus infection altogether. Without infection, transmission is not possible. Other recent research has also shown that when vaccinated people become infected, they produce lower levels of the virus than unvaccinated carriers, which should reduce the risk of transmission to other people. And when Walensky referenced real-world data, he was probably referring to Israel, where high vaccine consumption has crushed the spread of the pandemic, in part because vaccines do. significantly reduce transmission.
Once again, Walensky shouldn’t have spoken in absolute terms. Some people will still become infected and even get sick after being fully vaccinated, events that scientists call breakthrough infections. Sometimes these people could possibly also pass the virus to other people, particularly unvaccinated people. Other vaccines, such as the Johnson & Johnson one-dose injection, are relatively less effective than mRNA vaccines, so it should also be clear (although the Johnson & Johnson one-dose injection It seems to also greatly reduce the risk of transmission).
The CDC reports breakthrough cases in its current guide for vaccinated people, which says they should still wear masks and distance themselves in public and around unvaccinated people who are at high risk of complications from covid-19. Otherwise, vaccinated people can socialize indoors unmasked with each other and with only one household of unvaccinated people at a time, and can travel safely, the CDC says.
But while more research will be done to determine the likelihood that fully vaccinated people will transmit the virus, it won’t change the big picture, based on the data so far: Vaccinated people are highly unlikely to spread the virus. Variants are also included in this equation, as none in wide circulation Appear to substantially reduce the effectiveness of our current vaccines in the US.
There are times when it is essential to emphasize the uncertainty of important scientific questions and to exercise special caution in light of that uncertainty. A potential carcinogen discovered in a drug, for example, might be worth removing immediately, even if the exact odds of causing cancer are not yet known, as the risk could be high. But telling people that they will still be in danger or that their lives should not change for the better after receiving a vaccine is not supported by existing science, and some people are likely to refrain from receiving the vaccines.
The reason daily cases in the US remain stubbornly high is because there are still millions of unvaccinated people capable of transmitting the virus to other unvaccinated people. The pandemic will disappear as more and more of us get vaccinated. Vaccinated people who socialize together will not change this estimate.
None of this is intended to argue against maintaining current precautions, such as widespread masking in public or avoiding large gatherings indoors. These types of interventions are supposed to help reduce the level of ongoing community spread, and should remain in place until the pandemic is finally and clearly losing steam, not before.
But if you really want to do your part in the fight against the pandemic, the best thing you can do is get vaccinated as soon as you can, don’t scold anyone for enjoying the benefits of lab-made immunity.