While many people are fiercely enthusiastic about the ability of Pfizer, Moderna & Janssen vaccines to reduce COVID-19 transmission, the reality is that Americans shouldn’t get complacent about following common sense measures to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.
First on that list is washing your hands often.
Washing your hands is easy, and it's one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. Clean hands can stop germs from spreading from one person to another and throughout an entire community—from your home and workplace to childcare facilities and hospitals.
If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Good health habits like avoiding people who are sick, covering your cough and washing your hands often can help stop the spread of germs and prevent serious illnesses.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
In the past year, the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus has killed more people in the United States than the number of Americans who died in World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War combined.
Although the number of cases and deaths does appear to be declining, that trend could easily reverse. Many more people unquestionably need to become immune to the virus in order to extinguish this pandemic through vaccine-induced herd immunity.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, less than 15 percent of the US population is fully vaccinated with the Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
These vaccines can prevent many cases of symptomatic COVID-19 infection, serious disease, hospitalizations, and death. We do not know how well they do in preventing people from spreading the disease. Learning this will be key to implementing policies to bring an end to the pandemic.
Until we have a firm answer to transmission questions, social distancing, hand hygiene, testing, and mask wearing remain important weapons in the fight to limit and eventually end the pandemic.
In the 20th Century the goal of mass vaccination campaigns was to induce herd immunity and prevent or eliminate the sickness and death associated with an infectious pathogen.
The scientist A.W. Hedrich discovered herd immunity almost a century ago in children naturally infected with measles. He noticed that measles outbreaks occurred when most children hadn’t previously had the disease. Epidemics ended when the percentage of susceptible children in the population fell low enough.
Most surprising was that immunity protection extended to children who had not been exposed to the viral disease—the conclusion being that immune individuals were unlikely to contribute to disease transmission.
The more people that get vaccinated, the faster the United States could reach the threshold for herd immunity.
The guiding principle that could help us all navigate this brave new world: “When deciding what you can and can’t do, you should think less about your own vaccination status and more about whether your neighbors, family, grocery clerks, delivery drivers, and friends are themselves still vulnerable to the virus.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci said Americans should not get complacent about following mitigation procedures, especially since coronavirus is not the only germ out there.
Despite health officials urging continued vigilance, some governors have issued orders lifting their states’ mask mandates and letting all businesses reopen at full capacity. Their decision to end the state-wide mask mandate is a big mistake.
Until we know more, social distancing, hand hygiene, testing of symptomatic and more importantly asymptomatic individuals, and mask wearing will go a long way toward stopping viral transmission and slowing the evolution of this virus.
Use common sense and protect yourself, the people you love and everyone who shares the world with us. We are all in this together, and with a little luck, our future will be better than the last 13 months. Stay safe