Still Afraid Of COVID-19 After Getting The Vaccine? You're Not Alone.
It's hard to shake the fear and anxiety that comes with the coronavirus pandemic, even after you've been fully vaccinated. According to experts, this is where you can get used to the world again. (Photo: FG Trade via Getty Images)
It's hard, if not impossible, to understand how difficult the coronavirus pandemic has been. With an invisible but deadly virus raging through our communities, we have been told that the best way to protect ourselves is to stay home, put on masks, and indefinitely isolate yourself from friends, family and colleagues . And that's how we did it.
Over a year later, many of us are still living in fear - in some cases even after vaccination. Science tells us that the vaccines are highly effective and the chances of getting COVID-19 after vaccination are slim. Shaking off trauma is not an easy task, however, especially when the news is focused on variants and a possible fourth surge.
The challenge now for vaccinated people is to move away from fear-based thinking and get to a place where they are ready to live and take risks again. Here's why it's so difficult to stop living in fear after vaccination and how to adjust to life again after the shot.
Fear persists even when the threat is reduced
After a traumatic event, it is normal to be anxious and on high alert. Humans are essential for survival and built to escape danger, said Lucy McBride, a practicing internal medicine doctor in Washington, D.C.
"We are naturally fearful and fearful and vulnerable when there is a threat like COVID-19," McBride said. After the threat passes, the fear can linger.
We see this with different trauma. Take, for example, people who recently had a serious car accident. Survivors can develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and it can take time before they are ready to get back behind the wheel. Likewise, domestic violence survivors may hesitate before entering into a new relationship.
The same concept applies to COVID-19. After more than a year of trauma, moving from a hypervigilant state of anxiety to a place where we are ready to live a life and take risks again won't be easy, McBride said. When the fear is gone and the threat is minimized (through vaccination) it is okay to let go and move on. But that is often easier said than done.
We are naturally fearful and fearful and vulnerable when there is a threat like COVID-19.
Lucy McBride, internist
There is also confusing news about what is safe after vaccination
One of the reasons it is so difficult for vaccinated people to get out of this fear mode is the wide, jumbled public health message about what is and what is not safe after vaccination.
"There are so many megaphones and there is so much conflicting advice," said McBride.
See the latest travel guides from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC has issued recommendations on how to proceed safely after receiving the shot. If you are fully vaccinated, the risk is small (it has been two weeks since your second dose of Pfizer or Moderna, or since your Johnson & Johnson shot). The guidance also states that vaccinated individuals - who have been advised to continue wearing masks and to keep themselves socially distant in public - do not quarantine (while) after traveling or after exposure to someone suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 they must have no symptoms).
Then, however, experts at the CDC said that unnecessary travel should still be avoided without much further explanation. (That's basically because we're still in a pandemic and COVID is still spreading like crazy. So we should all continue to be mindful and respectful. But it can be very confusing!)
The science is out there and it's clear: getting COVID-19 is really difficult if you've been fully vaccinated. "You have to make an effort," said McBride.
Clinical studies show the recordings are incredibly effective, but the real-world evidence is even more convincing. According to Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease specialist and professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, real data shows that the real risk of developing COVID-19 after vaccination is around 0.05% - and that is during a surge when you are around a lot of people.
Going to the gym, eating indoors, going to the movies or the hair salon - all of the activities that are considered unsafe for an unvaccinated person - do not pose the same risk for people who have been vaccinated. Vaccinated people can safely do "all of this and more," said Gandhi.
Now the real data may not apply to every single person on the planet, McBride said. Breakthrough infections will be rare, and we'll hear from people who have been vaccinated who test positive. But by and large, death and serious illness are practically off the table after vaccination. There have been very few errors after vaccination, and the vast majority of breakthrough infections are likely mild, if not asymptomatic.
Even so, it is not yet time for vaccinated people to throw away their masks - largely out of respect for the majority of Americans who are not yet fully vaccinated and who remain susceptible to COVID-19. The latest evidence suggests that fully vaccinated people are very unlikely to get sick, transmit the virus, or pass it on to others. As long as the majority of the population is not vaccinated, masks will likely be the social norm.
"Be polite in public and comply with the restrictions imposed because we are not all vaccinated," said Gandhi.
It's like getting your feet wet. After any trauma, it will get better if you step into the water slowly.
Monica Gandhi, Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco
How to get used to life again after your COVID-19 vaccine
Humans are wired for survival, but we are also wired for connection. There are tons of studies that highlight how social relationships improve our mental and physical health and reduce our risk of death. Meaningful interactions with others are critical to our wellbeing, which is why health professionals tell vaccinated patients to relax the reins.
McBride recommended finding someone you trust first, e.g. B. a family doctor or therapist who can help you break down the general public health news and provide nuanced guidance for your individual physical and mental health needs. The risk assessment for vaccinated individuals with severe immunodeficiency may differ from that for the general vaccinated public.
It will take time for vaccinated people to break through the trauma, and everyone should proceed at their own pace. Start slowly. If you are still scared after the vaccination, don't go to a crowded hall to eat right away. Have a picnic with a friend who is also vaccinated, and if you feel good about it, do it again or try something different. Practice socializing and going out. Gradually it will feel less scary.
"It's like getting your feet wet," said Gandhi. "After every trauma, it gets better if you step into the water slowly."
Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is known or available at the time of publication. However, guidelines may change as scientists learn more about the virus. Consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most up-to-date recommendations.
It's not just you. Many of us are hitting a pandemic wall right now.
11 Sneaky Signs You are worried about your health over the COVID-19 pandemic
Forget about anti-vaxxers. "Hesitant Vaxxers" is the group to focus on.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.
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