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What will life look like after a COVID-19 vaccine?

Will we still have to wear masks? What about social distancing? We talked to health experts in Colorado about what life looks life after a vaccine.

DENVER — With the help of infectious disease specialists from UCHealth and Denver Health, we explored what life could look like after people start getting vaccinated for COVID-19.

Here is part of our conversation with Dr. Michelle Barron of UCHealth, and Dr. David Wyles from Denver Health. 

What do COVID protocols look like after someone has received the vaccine?

Both experts said it's important for people to continue to take precautions, like wearing masks and social distancing. 

"You should. The second dose is necessary. So you have either 21 or 28 days between doses before you have potential protection.  And then there is still probably another week or two after the second dose for that to be fully effective. So you may be protected. The question is everyone else protected," said Barron. 

Wyles agreed that following COVID-19 precautions will be crucial, especially since rolling out the vaccine will take time and there is a lot of research to be done. 

"The answer I know is probably disappointing to some," said Wyles. "You still do all of those things.

NEXT QUESTION: How long will we wear masks after being vaccinated?

It's possible someone could still get COVID after being vaccinated. What do we know about how contagious that person could be? 

Wyles said that is the million-dollar question. 

"We don't know," he said. "We presume you can still get infected, still have the virus and secretion and can pass it onto other people." 

Research shows that the vaccine could both help prevent getting sick in the first place and if people do get sick, their symptoms could be milder. As more people are vaccinated, experts will gain more understanding of the vaccine.

"The shot does not guarantee that you will not get COVID," said Barron. "It means you are less likely and it also means you are likely to have milder disease. It's not oh I can go do whatever I want."

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As high-risk groups are vaccinated first and vaccines go down the line, how can high-risk individuals interact with others in the general public?

Wyles said protections are going to be critical. 

"Once grandma is vaccinated, she is probably protected," he said. "But it's not perfect. You could still potentially give that to her and grandma could potentially give you SARS-CoV if you haven't been vaccinated." 

Barron said the novel thing about these COVID vaccines is that they seem to work pretty well in people 65 and older, which is great. She also reminded us that the data collected so far is only a couple of months' worth. 

"We still don't have data on some of our more vulnerable hosts -- people with cancer or other immuno-deficiency," she said.

"People need to remember that there is still this margin of error," Barron added. "Do you really want to put them in that scenario where they can get sick?" 

"It's not time to say I'm done; I'm tired," Barron said. "We are so close, so, so close. If we have made it this long and we've become creative and made allowances in our lives to do things differently we can do it a little bit longer."

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