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2nd dose of COVID-19 vaccine important step in return to normalcy

The first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine arriving in Southwest Florida is bringing excitement for a return to a normal life, but there’s a catch.

Everyone who gets that shot will need to get a second one in order for the vaccine to work – and those appointments are weeks away.

After the year we’ve had, we all want to be close to our loved ones and friends, but experts say that can’t happen just yet, not even if you’ve had the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

“We want to make sure we get our shot tomorrow and try to get back to a normal life again,” said Robert Downing of Cape Coral.

For the Downings, getting the vaccine signals the end of 2020 and the loneliness and isolation that came with it.

“Our family is in California, Boston, Texas, and we really miss them. And just to get back to our normal life means a lot to us,” said Stephanie Downing.

But for all the comfort and confidence that getting the first dose brings, experts warn that the one thing that doesn’t come with it is an immediate return to normalcy.

“It is not something that says, ‘Oh, I’m free! I’m out of COVID jail.’ No, we’re not out of COVID jail. We have to still live responsibly,” said Dr. Stephanie Stovall, medical director for pediatric infection prevention and epidemiology at Lee Health.

“Having some level of immunity means that if I accidentally do something I shouldn’t – forget to wear a mask when I should, forget to wash my hands before I rub my eyes – I’ve got another layer of protection there to back up my actions.”

That’s because you need both doses to reach the 95% efficacy rate, and even after the booster, you’ll still have to wait.

“It takes on the order of a week or two before your body can mount that immune response that makes it a little safer to see others,” said Dr. Stephen Kissler with the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at Harvard School of Public Health.

If you don’t, you could end up hurting those same loved ones you’ve been trying to protect all year.

“We don’t know anything about whether or not this vaccine can keep us from getting asymptomatic infection and therefore spread it to other people,” Stovall said.

“Wearing a mask and even maybe not hugging a loved one – perceiving all of that as, ‘I’m doing something good for myself and the people that I love,'” said Dr. Yaro Garcia, clinical and accreditation coordinator with the Florida Gulf Coast University Department of Counseling.

Something else to keep in mind is that the vaccine isn’t 100% effective either and it will be a while before it’s available to everyone.

So even after you’ve received both doses of the vaccine, it’s still a good idea to use safety precautions.

Reporter:Veronica Marshall
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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