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Still afraid of COVID-19 after receiving the vaccine?  You’re not alone.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to understand how difficult the coronavirus pandemic has been. With an invisible but deadly virus spreading through our communities, we’ve been told the best way to protect ourselves is to stay home, cover ourselves in masks, and isolate ourselves indefinitely from friends, family and relatives. colleagues. And that’s what we’ve done.

More than a year later, many of us still live in fear – even, in some cases, after being vaccinated. Science tells us that vaccines are very effective and that the chances of contracting COVID-19 after vaccination are slim. But getting rid of trauma isn’t an easy task, especially if the news is focused on variants and a potential fourth flare.

The challenge for people who have been vaccinated now is to move away from fear-based thinking and to a place where they are ready to live and take risks again. Here’s why it’s so hard to stop living in fear after receiving the vaccine, and how to readjust to life once you’ve received the vaccine.

Fear persists even when the threat is reduced

After a traumatic event, it is normal to be fearful and on high alert. Human beings are wired to survive and built to flee danger, said Lucy mcbride, a practicing internal medicine doctor in Washington, DC

“We are naturally fearful, scared and vulnerable when there is a threat like COVID-19,” McBride said. Once the threat has passed, fear may persist.

We see this play out with various traumas. Take, for example, people who have recently been in a serious car accident. Survivors could develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, and it might take a while before they’re ready to get back behind the wheel. In the same way, survivors of domestic violence may hesitate before starting a new relationship.

The same concept applies to COVID-19. After more than a year of sustained trauma, it won’t be easy to move from a state of hypervigilant fear to a place where we’re ready to live and take risks again, McBride said. When the fear is gone and the threat is minimized (through vaccination), it will be okay to let go and move on. But it’s often easier said than done.

“We are naturally fearful, afraid and vulnerable when there is a threat like COVID-19.”

– Lucy McBride, internal doctor

There are also confusing messages about what is safe to do after vaccination

One of the reasons it is so difficult for those vaccinated to break out of this fear mode is the broad, confused public health message about what is and is not safe after vaccination.

“There are so many megaphones and there is so much conflicting advice,” McBride said.

Follow the latest advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on travel. The CDC has issued recommendations on what to do safely after you’ve received the vaccine, saying there’s little risk if you’re fully vaccinated (meaning it’s been two weeks since your vaccination. second dose of Pfizer or Moderna, or from your Johnson & Johnson injection). The guidelines also say that vaccinated people – who have been advised to continue to wear masks and maintain social distancing in public – do not need to self-quarantine after travel or after exposure. to a person suspected or confirmed of COVID-19 (as long as they have no symptoms).

Then, however, CDC experts went on to say that non-essential travel should still be avoided, without much further explanation. (This is basically because we are still in a pandemic and COVID is still spreading like crazy, so we should all continue to be careful and respectful. But it can be very confusing!)

The science is out there, and it’s clear: It’s really hard to get COVID-19 if you’ve been fully immunized. “It would take a lot of effort,” said McBride.

Clinical studies show that injections are incredibly effective, but the real world evidence is even more compelling. According to Monica Gandhi, infectious disease specialist and professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, real word data shows that the actual risk of contracting COVID-19 after vaccination is around 0.05% – and that’s during an outbreak when you’re with a lot of people.

Going to the gym, dining indoors, going to the movies or the hair salon – all activities deemed dangerous for unvaccinated people – do not carry the same risk for people who have been vaccinated. People who have been vaccinated can do “all of this and more” safely, ”Gandhi said.

Now, real-world data can’t apply to every person on the planet, McBride said. There will be rare breakthrough infections, and we will hear from vaccinated people who test positive. But overall, after vaccination, death and serious illness are virtually irrelevant. There have been very few failures after vaccination and the vast majority of rupture infections are probably mild or even asymptomatic.

That said, it is not yet time for those vaccinated to throw away the masks – mainly out of respect for the majority of Americans who are still not fully immunized and remain susceptible to COVID-19. the latest evidence says fully vaccinated people are very unlikely to get sick, carry the virus or broadcast it to others, but until most of the population is vaccinated, masks will likely be the social norm.

“Be polite in public and keep the restrictions imposed because not all of us are vaccinated,” Gandhi said.

“It’s like getting your feet wet. After any trauma, slowly entering the water will make things better.

– Monica Gandhi, Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco

How to re-acclimatize to life after your COVID-19 vaccine

Human beings are wired for survival, but we are also wired for connection. There are tons of studies highlighting how social relationships improve our mental and physical health and reduce our risk of death. Having meaningful interactions with others is vital to our well-being, which is why health experts are starting to tell vaccine patients to let go.

McBride recommended finding someone you trust first, such as a primary care physician or therapist, who can help break down the broad public health message and provide nuanced advice for your particular healthcare needs. physical and mental health. The risk assessment for severely immunocompromised vaccinated individuals may differ from that for the general population vaccinated.

It will take time for those vaccinated to overcome the trauma, and each should follow their own pace. Start slowly. If you’re still scared after getting vaccinated, don’t rush to eat in a crowded indoor gathering. Have a picnic with a friend who is also vaccinated, and if you feel well, start over or try something else. Practice socializing and going out. Gradually it will become less scary.

“It’s like getting your feet wet,” Gandhi said. “After any trauma, going slowly into the water will make things better.”

Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is what was known or available at the time of publication, but directions may change as scientists find out more about the virus. Please consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most recent recommendations.


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