Home Coronavirus What next after the Covid-19 vaccine: Expectations vs reality

What next after the Covid-19 vaccine: Expectations vs reality

by Sponsored Content
12th Feb 21 8:55 am

The arrival of COVID vaccines has changed the trajectory of the virus. What happens now? Do we keep testing, and does life go back to normal? This article discusses more.

Since the first case was reported in December 2019, the Corona Virus has continued to wreak havoc, upending livelihoods, families, economies, and the very sense of normalcy. Social distancing, lockdowns, wearing masks, sanitizing, and working from home seemed to be the only precautions until now.

On 2nd December 2020, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) authorised the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID 19 vaccine to be administered across the UK. It is safe to say that we all breathed a collective sigh of relief, buoyed by the possibility of a light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

Things are certainly looking up as COVID 19 vaccinations continue across the UK. Since the vaccination program kicked off on 8th December 2020, over 12 million people have received the first dose. Following the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) program, front line workers and those over 80 were the first to be vaccinated. Similarly, residents in care homes for the elderly, their caregivers, those over 70 years, and the clinically vulnerable have been given priority.

The second phase of the program will see those over 50 years and those with underlying medical conditions get vaccinated. The UK plans to administer the vaccine to the rest of the adult population in the Spring. This is around when the third vaccine from US pharmaceutical giant Moderna is expected to arrive.

As the COVID 19 vaccine trickles down to the general population, you are probably wondering what this means. Does it mean an end to the pandemic? Should we throw away the masks? Can we resume travel? Does life go back to normal? What about Covid testing Kits– will we still need them? This article answers these questions and discusses what you can expect after getting your COVID 19 vaccine.

Things will not immediately switch back to normal

We all have a preconceived notion of getting back to our lives pre-COVID. We imagine the things we will do and places we will visit when lockdowns are finally lifted, and it is safe to travel again. Scientists, however, predict that this may have to wait longer than we would like.

One of the reasons is that it takes the body several weeks to build immunity after getting the vaccine. Studies are ongoing on whether a vaccinated person can still transmit the virus.  While the government has pledged to secure enough vaccines for all citizens, they are not 100% effective. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, for instance, is 95% effective, which leaves a 5% window for infections.

There is also the threat of new strains whose effects and behavior towards the vaccine are still unknown. Experts worry that these new strains could undo the current vaccines’ benefits or require the development of new vaccines. Similarly, it may take weeks, even months, before we can see tangible effects of the vaccine, enough to lift lockdowns, re-open schools and allow international travel.

Finally, with a phased approach to the vaccine, and the possibility that some people will not be inoculated, it will take longer to achieve ‘herd immunity’ against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID 19. Herd immunity refers to protection against a virus achieved when most of the population is immune to it.

According to the World Health Organization, it is not yet known what percentage of the population needs to be inoculated to create herd immunity for COVID 19. Going by the example of other diseases such as measles (95%) and Polio (80%), these are about the percentages we are looking at. This only underscores the importance of mass vaccinations.

Should we still observe COVID protocols after the vaccine?

According to the NHS, the vaccine is not a get out of jail card. This means that even after you have received a vaccine, you should continue wearing your mask, observing social distancing, and sanitizing your hands.

One reason for this is that there are still many people who haven’t received the vaccine. While the vaccine will protect you from developing symptomatic COVID 19, it is still unknown whether you can spread the virus to other people.  Therefore, those who have received the vaccine must play their part in protecting the rest of the community. This is perhaps until such a time that most people have had two doses of the vaccine.

For the most part, we will all be expected to use our best judgment depending on our circumstances. For instance, if your elderly grandparents have been vaccinated recently, you may want to keep your mask on when you visit them. Similarly, you may want to avoid large gatherings until a larger part of the population has received the vaccine.

Is testing still necessary

Yes, testing will still play a vital role in containing the Corona Virus. According to WHO, ‘testing is the spotlight that shows where the virus is.’ This means that even as the government races to take the vaccine to the people, COVID testing must continue, and this includes providing resources, testing kits, and personnel where needed.

Continued testing means that the NHS will have a clear picture of what is going on, particularly in the emergence of two new variants in the UK. Public Health England has identified over 70 cases of these new variants, triggering mass testing in Bristol, Liverpool, and ten other UK areas. One variant has been identified as having a mutation that can allow the vaccine to escape, making it less effective. As experts keep a close watch on how the virus behaves, testing will provide much-needed data to chart the way forward.


Admittedly, it may be disheartening to find out that the much-touted vaccine is not the quick fix that we imagined it would be. Yet, going forward, it is undoubtedly our strongest response to the virus.

For now, we may be forced to adjust our expectations, to realise that we may never truly go back to the pre-COVID normal. Although you may be itching to go to the movies or attend a football game, there are some habits that we picked up during the pandemic that will stick and become the ‘new normal.’

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