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Doctor's advise: Don't throw "caution to the wind" once you've been vaccinated

There's a lot we don't know about COVID
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Posted at 6:47 PM, Feb 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-01 18:47:46-05

INDIANAPOLIS — As more and more people get vaccinated, a doctor has an important warning for Hoosiers to not throw caution to the wind.

“It was one of the most exciting days of the whole year,” described Dr. Elizabeth Groves-Egan, after she received her COVID-19 vaccine in December. “It was pretty spectacular. I felt very lucky to be able to get that vaccine so soon.”

An ophthalmologist at St. Vincent, she works with people six inches from their face, putting her at very high risk of exposure. “Just to know that I’m probably not going to be able to bring that virus home to my family, to my parents and to pass it onto my patients, has just been a huge stress and emotional relief,” she said. “I feel a lot safer practicing today.”

But even after receiving the vaccine, she says she’s not letting her guard down. She hasn’t changed her quarantine pool, only seeing family at this time, and still has yet to eat indoors at a restaurant since March.

“I have lots of concerns about people just willy-nilly getting together after vaccination because unfortunately they’re not perfect,” said Dr. Christopher Belcher, the Ascension St. Vincent infection prevention medical director. “We are seeing 94-95% efficacy, which means 1 in 20 people still have the potential to get the disease. Not everyone’s going to be protected.”

Dr. Belcher says a week or two after the second shot, people have reached pretty good immunity against COVID-19. But data is still unclear whether the vaccine reduces transmission of the coronavirus completely or just by a fraction.

“We don’t know with the vaccine if people are able to still spread the disease,” he said. “We may be asymptomatically spreading it around. So lots and lots of concerns with vaccinated people throwing caution to the wind just because they’ve been vaccinated.”

Looking to the future, as the virus continues to mutate, he has this warning for you:

“My particular worry at this time is that the South African variant, and to some degree the Brazilian variance from what we are learning, the vaccines may not be as effective,” said Dr. Belcher. “Even for people who have had the disease to get together, that may come around and cause a second illness, or the first illness if you’ve been vaccinated. So we may be playing catch-up with the strains. So I don’t know that there’s going to be a time when we can say it’s safe to be around people because this virus is trying to get on top of the vaccine.”