Newswise — With more people becoming eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, some may be wondering why they should get vaccinated. University of Alabama at Birmingham experts explain five benefits you could experience by getting one of the three vaccines available.
You can attend small events in person
In April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidance on small public gatherings. For fully vaccinated individuals, “small gatherings in a home or private setting with other fully vaccinated people” are safe.
However, large public events such as sporting events and concerts are still not recommended.
“For fully vaccinated people, it is safe to gather with other small groups without a mask inside a home or private setting, although medium and large gatherings are not recommended at this time, even if everyone is fully vaccinated,” said Rachael Lee, M.D., assistant professor in the UAB Division of Infectious Diseases.
To see the return of such events, Suzanne Judd, Ph.D., professor in the UAB School of Public Health, says we must reach herd immunity.
“Large public events can return, but only once 70 percent of the population is vaccinated,” Judd said. “Israel has vaccinated 80 percent of their adult population and has been able to start returning back to the ways things were before the pandemic.”
You can travel
A second benefit to getting vaccinated is fully vaccinated people can travel without quarantining, both domestically and internationally.
“However, outside of the home setting, I recommend continuing to wear masks to prevent transmission of COVID-19, particularly given the rise of COVID variants of concern that may bypass our immune system,” Lee said.
You can reconnect with loved ones and co-workers
Another benefit to getting vaccinated is families could feel comfortable gathering again, sharing meals and enjoying each other’s company.
“Grandparents may see grandchildren again, and people who have health concerns or are undergoing cancer therapy may be able to get out and see friends, which could really help to boost their mood,” Judd said.
With more Americans being vaccinated every day, the reconnecting could be more than just family. Many companies are allowing their employees to return to the office, allowing co-workers to reconnect after many months.
You could see immediate health benefits
Receiving a COVID-19 vaccine can decrease the chances of catching COVID-19 by a remarkable percentage. Judd notes that getting a vaccine is much more likely to protect one’s health than masking or social distancing.
“The clinical trial data has demonstrated the vaccines reduce the rate of COVID by 90 percent. That is huge,” Judd said. “Our best interventions to slow case transmission in 2020 were social interventions like masking and distancing, which resulted in only a 20 percent to 60 percent reduction in COVID, depending on where and how implemented.”
Stopping the spread of COVID means slowing mutations of the virus too. Every time the virus spreads to a new person, it has the chance to mutate. The vaccine gives us a much better chance at getting COVID case levels to a manageable level so we could see more places reopen and see the restrictions lessen.
According to the CDC, if a person is exposed to the coronavirus or a mutation of it, a fully vaccinated person — two weeks after the second shot of Pfizer or Moderna, or single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — is 94 percent less likely to be hospitalized compared to an unvaccinated individual.
In addition to having a significantly lower risk of catching COVID, a vaccine could help reduce long-term symptoms if you have already had COVID-19. According to Judd, health professionals are hearing that some people with lingering COVID symptoms see easing of symptoms following vaccination.
Researchers have yet to determine what all the long-term consequences of COVID could be, even for those who had a mild case and were not hospitalized. Judd observes that previous infectious diseases caused health problems after many years.
“A good example of this is chicken pox,” Judd said. “Many of us in our 40s and beyond had chicken pox, while our children were given the varicella vaccine. Those of us who had chicken pox are at risk of shingles, while those who had the vaccine seem to be at lower risk for shingles.
“Even though we lived through chicken pox with only a few scars, there are long-term consequences to the infection in terms of risk of shingles,” she said. “The same may be true for COVID. Given that we have no idea what future risks may occur from having had a COVID infection, that is a huge risk for an individual to take with their health.”
UAB now offers vaccines at all four of its community vaccination locations with no appointment necessary. Those who wish to make appointments for specific dates and times may do so at uabmedicinevaccine.org.