Can I do things differently after a COVID-19 vaccination?

We have been thrilled to be one of the first care homes in Devon and Somerset to be able to offer residents and staff a COVID-19 vaccination, if they want one. Our roll-out has been going smoothly, and it’s fantastic for everyone to begin to see a glimmer of hope at the end of a dark tunnel. Thank you to families and friends for bearing with us whilst we’ve minimised visiting and contact in order to deliver the vaccine quickly, safely and efficiently.

We’ve been getting lots of questions about whether, once you’ve had one or two doses of the vaccine, you can do things differently. Can your elderly relative now go to the shops with you to choose their favourite groceries? Can you hug? Can you safely meet indoors? We decided to find out some answers for ourselves.

How long will it take for the vaccine to protect me?

In the UK there are now three different vaccines approved for use, so the answer to this will depend, to some extent, on which vaccination you have had. However, most tests show that it takes up to two weeks for your body to build up a good immune response from the day of your first vaccine. A second vaccine should be given within 12 weeks to maximise protection.

However, having the vaccination doesn’t guarantee that you won’t get COVID-19. What it does do is help to ensure that, if you do get it, you get it much less severely. The protection given by the vaccination should prevent the need to go to hospital with symptoms, for example.

Can I stop wearing a mask and social distancing after a vaccine?

We understand the desperation to get back to normal. However, people being vaccinated at the moment are amongst the very first to receive the vaccine. Therefore, being in a vaccinated group currently puts you in the minority. Whilst the vaccination should protect you from getting very ill and being hospitalised, we don’t yet know if it stops you being a carrier of the disease, or contagious to others. This means that you still need to wear a mask (when required) and socially distance in order to protect others.

Do I have to follow lockdown restrictions if I have been vaccinated?

Yes. Lockdown rules have been put in place in law. They are designed to protect everyone and control the spread of the virus and help the NHS manage this particularly difficult time. Lockdown restrictions apply even if you have received the vaccination.

I feel ill after the vaccine, could I have caught COVID-19?

You can’t catch the disease from the vaccine but there is a small chance you may have contracted COVID-19 either before you received the vaccination or before your body was able to build a response to the vaccine. If you have COVID-19 symptoms, you must self-isolate and book a test.

Additionally, some people are experiencing short-lasting side effects such as headaches, temperatures and flu-symptoms, which are normal reactions to the vaccine.

Can I have more visitors now I’ve been vaccinated?

The rules of lockdown still apply. Also, it’s not yet known if those who have been vaccinated can pass on the virus (although it is believed that this risk will be reduced). As such, for now, those who have been vaccinated need to still practice social distancing, excellent hand hygiene and wear a mask when appropriate. At Eastleigh we hope that the current restrictions on visiting will be raised soon, certainly towards the spring, so that everyone can get back to their loved ones again.

Can I hug someone once they are vaccinated? Now I’ve been vaccinated can I hug my family?

Professor Van Tam has answered this question directly. He said: “I think until we are properly confident of how the vaccine works and properly confident that disease levels are dropping, even if you’ve had the vaccine, you’re going to have to follow all the rules that apply for a while longer.” He explained that many factors come into play, such as how well someone responds to the vaccine. For now, whilst very hard, it is safest to stick to social distancing and save those hugs up until it is safer.

Do I need to continue shielding after I’ve had the vaccine?

The medical advice from the Department of Health and Social Care is that if you are clinically extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 and have been instructed to shield, that you should continue to do so, even after you’ve had the vaccination. This is because it is safer to wait and assess the impact of the vaccines in the short-term. All those who are shielding should be vaccinated by the middle of February. Those you live with should also continue to follow the public health advice and rules.

When will things get back to normal after the vaccine?

The vaccination programme certainly brings light at the end of the tunnel. However, you need to consider what’s right and safe for you as well as how to protect others. It’s believed that social restrictions will need to stay in place until around 50% of the population has been vaccinated.

The good news is that the government has ordered enough vaccinations for the complete population of adults.

Ultimately, it is possible that regular vaccines may be needed, similar to the flu vaccine, and there may be smaller outbreaks.

Nonetheless, along with less pressure on the NHS and better weather, the vaccine should mean that we can begin to feel that returning to seeing our loved ones more normally should be possible within months.

Any other questions?

Hopefully we’ve addressed most of the questions we’re regularly being asked. It does still require some patience, and it’s going to take some time, but don’t lose sight that things are definitely improving.

Find out more about what to expect after your COVID-19 vaccination.