Don’t drop your guard after getting the vaccine.
That’s the vital public health message, as Northern Ireland’s vaccination programme continues to roll out.
People who have received COVID-19 vaccine jabs need to keep strictly following all the measures that keep themselves and others safe from the virus. That includes staying at home and keeping their distance from people outside their households.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride said:”Vaccination protects people from Covid. It will significantly reduce levels of serious illness, hospitalisation and deaths 2-3 weeks after vaccination. It will, in time, also reduce pressures on our health and social care system in due course when more people are vaccinated.
“However, that does not mean that individuals who are vaccinated can start behaving as if the pandemic is over for them. It is not. Caution and vigilance have to remain the watchwords, particularly until such times as the vaccination programme is much further advanced in the whole population.
“For a start, no vaccine is 100% effective. Some people who receive it will not benefit from the full protection that the vast majority will enjoy. We also have no certainty yet on what vaccination means for infectiousness and transmissibility. It is possible that a vaccinated person, while protected themselves, may still pass the virus on to someone who has yet to get the jab.”
Dr Gerry Waldron, Head of Health Protection at the PHA, said: “The roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine programme has brought a renewed hope as we start 2021. Vaccination has been shown to prevent severe infection, so even if people do catch the virus, they will be protected from getting seriously ill, but we still need the public to adhere to public health guidance if we are to see a better year than last.
“The COVID-19 vaccination will reduce the chance of you getting COVID-19 disease, but it may not eradicate the risk completely. Also, we need to see what impact the vaccine has on reducing the spread of the disease – research is ongoing to examine the extent to which vaccinated people can still pass Coronavirus to others. Therefore, it is essential that we continue to follow public health advice about wearing a face covering, maintaining social distancing and washing our hands.
“It is also important to remember that it can take several weeks to acquire immunity following vaccination, so people should not be lulled into a false sense of security as soon as they have their jab.
“The best thing we can all do to help protect ourselves, our families and our communities at this time is to keep following the guidance and sticking to the lockdown rules.
“The vaccine rollout is really great news and a cause for optimism, but there is still a long way to go. We can’t afford to be complacent; let’s all keep doing our bit.”