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Explained: What changes for every Irish person once they get the vaccine

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After a year of miserable news surrounding Covid-19, there’s finally some hope on the horizon.

Some priority groups, such as front-line healthcare workers and over 65s in long-term care centres, have already received their second dose of the vaccine.

And with mass vaccination of all other citizens ahead in the coming months, many people may be wondering what will change in their daily life once they get vaccinated.

Getting the jab does not mean that you’re automatically invincible, but it does provide people a way to reduce their risk and get back to their loved ones sooner.

It takes time for the vaccine to take effect and it may take a week or two for your body to build up some protection from the first dose of vaccine, meaning you could still be at risk soon after receiving your jab.

While the vaccines protect the person who is vaccinated against disease, we still don’t know if they stop that person transmitting the virus to someone else.

Since there still is a little bit of uncertainty regarding how everything works, experts stress the importance of remaining vigilant about stopping the spread of Covid-19 and to follow the current government guidelines.

A jab is given at a drive through vaccination centre in St Albans, north of London

A jab is given at a drive through vaccination centre in St Albans, north of London

Experts also say people should expect many restrictions to remain in place for some time as we all work together to reduce Covid-19 transmission.

While new information regarding the vaccines is emerging every week, here is what we know so far about what life will be like after you receive your jab:

Will I be fully protected from Covid-19 after receiving the vaccine?

After having both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, most people will be protected against the virus, but there is a small chance you might still get coronavirus after vaccination.

Even if you do get Covid-19, being vaccinated can reduce how serious your symptoms will be.

Like all medicines, no vaccine is completely effective, so you should continue to follow public health advice to avoid infection and stop the spread of Covid-19.

At this point, it is unknown how long immunity will last after a person is fully vaccinated, and only time will reveal the answer.

The Covid-19 vaccine could become a yearly shot, similar to the flu shot, and its benefits could last for a shorter time, or longer.

Should vaccinated people still wear masks in public places?

Experts agree that everyone should wear masks, at least for the time being.

Beyond not knowing who is vaccinated and who isn’t, each person can have a different immune reaction to a vaccine.

Media prepares a vaccine in Darlington, England

A paramedic draws up the AstraZeneca/Oxford University Covid-19 vaccine at the Darlington Arena Vaccination Centre

No vaccine is effective right away and Covid vaccines will take a little longer than other inoculations, such as the flu shot, because both the Moderna and Pfizer products require two doses.

The Pfizer shots are given three weeks apart; the Moderna shots, four weeks apart.

In other words, full protection won’t arrive until five or six weeks after the first shot, so it is crucial that you continue to wear a mask after receiving the vaccine to prevent infection and to stop the spread of the virus.

Another reason as to why you will need to wear a mask after receiving your vaccine is related to the new mutant variants and other variants still to come.

“The vaccine might protect you against death, but maybe your protection against disease ends up being about 50-60%,” said Dr Gregory Poland, an infectious diseases expert and head of Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group.

“If that’s true, then we still want to wear masks to prevent disease, and prevent the spread of those variants, which could then mutate further causing even more infections.”

Do I have to keep social distancing after being vaccinated?

The short answer is yes, you will still need to practice social distancing after receiving the vaccine.

There are a few reasons for this.

First, since the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are roughly 95% effective, there’s a 5% gap – meaning there’s a small chance you could still become infected.

Second, clinical trials were set up to determine whether the vaccines could prevent serious disease and death.

They weren’t designed to study whether vaccinated people could contract the virus and remain asymptomatic while spreading to others, meaning there is still a risk that you could pass on the virus to someone else despite being vaccinated.

Is it safe for vaccinated people to get together?

Indoor and other high-risk activities should be avoided, even if you’re around others who have been vaccinated.

Even after getting the Covid-19 vaccine, continue to follow safety precautions and consider avoiding in-person visits with friends and family until more is known about the immunity the vaccines provide.

New, more infectious variants are starting to spread, and while clinical studies found the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to be roughly 95% effective, we don’t have a full understanding on how variants could affect their response.

Because of this unknown, experts don’t advise gathering indoors with people outside your household, even if everyone is vaccinated.

A dose of the BioNTech/Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine is prepared at Waterford Primary Care Centre in County Waterford, southeast Ireland

If you choose to have in-person visits, remember to keep a two metre distance between yourself and others.

Visit outdoors, when possible, or open windows and doors to make sure the space is well-ventilated.

The bottom line is, even if you receive your vaccine, to protect yourself and your family, friends and colleagues you still need to:

• practice social distancing

• wear a face mask

• wash your hands carefully and frequently

• follow the current guidance at HSE.ie

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