Even with COVID-19 vaccine, still need to ‘exercise caution’ when visiting elderly

Increasing numbers of people are getting vaccinated against COVID-19, with eligibility expanding to include the elderly in D.C. and Northern Virginia. But an expert believes there still are too many unknowns for you to begin letting your guard down.

“Community transmission is at extremely high rates, and we’re seeing some new strains circulating, including the UK strain. We still have to exercise caution when we’re visiting elderly relatives or grandparents,” said Dr. Mona Gahunia, an infectious disease doctor leading the Kaiser Permanente COVID-19 vaccination plans in the mid-Atlantic region.

The COVID-19 vaccines now in use in the U.S. are said to be 95% effective after two doses.

Those who have received two doses of vaccine, or are visiting with people who have, should continue wearing masks, distancing and practicing good hygiene, Gahunia said. Also, quarantine for two weeks before visiting elderly relatives.

“No vaccine is 100%,” Gahunia said. “We’re still learning about exactly how everybody responds to the vaccine and the timing of that response.”

How long immunity might last is unclear, but Moderna has said its vaccine will offer protection for at least a year.

Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines prompt your body to produce neutralizing antibodies.

“Neutralizing antibodies usually last a couple of years, based on our experience with other vaccines,” Gahunia said. “But until we can more definitively say that for both of these vaccines, we advise taking the cautious approach.”

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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