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'Vaccinations have already shown their power': Health experts weigh in on life after being fully vaccinated

As Colorado inches closer towards herd immunity, health experts say fully vaccinated people can feel comfortable loosening personal restrictions.

COLORADO, USA — After a year of mask wearing and social distancing, some may be hesitant about easing their COVID-19 prevention measures, even after being fully vaccinated.

"You have that layer of protection and there certainly can be breakthrough cases, but they are very uncommon," said Dr. Michelle Barron, Senior Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control at UCHealth. 

9NEWS health expert, Dr. Payal Kohli, said every person that gets vaccinated contributes to protecting not only themselves, but their entire communities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlines activities that are safe to resume after someone is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. 9NEWS asked both Dr. Kohli and Dr. Barron to weigh in on the benefits of getting vaccinated. 

Editor's note: Answers have been edited for context and clarity.

According to data from CDPHE, 13 Colorado counties have reached a vaccination rate of 65% or more. What does this mean for those communities?

Dr. Barron: If your county is well vaccinated, the number of cases you see goes down significantly. 

It means less people are spreading it to each other, less people are ending up in the hospital, less people are dying. So those are obviously huge things that are important. But probably even most important, your individual risk of getting COVID goes down to where you can feel more comfortable doing the things you like to do.

Dr. Kohli: Vaccinations are so critical on an individual level, because it allows you to go to gatherings, it allows you to get together with your friends, it allows you to gather indoors without that mask. It allows us to open up our venues again, it allows us to open up our restaurants again, our businesses, and get our lives back to normal.

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How likely would it be for someone who is fully vaccinated to get COVID-19 and transmit it to others?

Dr. Barron: The risk is incredibly low. There’s nothing that we do that isn’t with some level of risk. We get in our cars every day, we go outside and do activities in the mountains where there’s risk, and we do stuff to mediate that risk.

Dr. Kohli: You can (get infected with COVID-19) but the probability is extremely low that you’re going to be giving off large amounts of virus particles, so the transmission becomes inefficient once you’re fully vaccinated to other people. You’re a lot less likely to carry it to somebody else because the amount you’re giving off from your secretions are a lot less. Even though all of us are not yet vaccinated, any additional person that gets vaccinated protects not just themselves, but even those unvaccinated people around them.

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What advice do you have for fully vaccinated people who are still hesitant about resuming normal activities?

Dr. Barron: If you’re fully vaccinated, you can have some confidence in your ability to go out and do things. At the the end of the day though, you have to feel good about it. You want to be able to enjoy yourself, so ease yourself back in if you have to. Bring your mask. You can still wear it. You don’t have to throw it away, but you should also have confidence you don’t have to wear it.

It’s nice to have options now, and that’s a beautiful option to have. To choose whether you want to wear it or not is something pretty amazing, given where we’ve been for the last year.

Dr. Kohli: You’ve already seen the magic of herd immunity at play, because the number of cases are just going down and down. The number of deaths are going down, hospitalizations are going down.

The vaccinations have already shown their power, and we’re just so close to the finish line. We just need the rest of us to get vaccinated, and that includes our kids once they become eligible. Then I think we’ll be through that finish line and this pandemic will be behind us.

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