Why a vaccine won’t be an overnight cure for the pandemic

There’s no question a safe, effective vaccine will be a major tool to shortening the pandemic, but you need to keep up other precautions as well even after the approval of a COVID-19 shot is announced.

Headlines about the race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine are piling up, with daily predictions on the news and social media about when one might be available.

“The important thing to remember is that a vaccine is not an overnight cure for the pandemic,” Dr. Robert Citronberg, Executive Medical Director of Infectious Disease and Prevention for Advocate Aurora Health, told ABC-7 Chicago on Wednesday. He noted that it will take time for enough of a vaccine supply to become available, and many vaccines require two doses taken weeks apart to be effective.

“We still may be expecting to have some forms of social distancing and masking maybe for another year, even with the vaccine,” Dr. Citronberg said. “It’s important for people to remain vigilant in everything that they’re doing.”

Plus, he said, the country could be in a summertime lull for COVID-19 cases, and numbers could go up when the temperatures start going down and people spend more time inside, where the virus is more apt to spread. So it’s not the time to start relaxing the precautions you’re taking to slow the spread of the virus, such as wearing a mask keeping your distance from others, and washing your hands regularly.

“We’re doing a great job, but we’re going to need to continue to do that great job into the winter months,” Dr. Citronberg said during the ABC-7 interview.

A flu vaccine is already available, and with the traditional flu season coming up, it’s important that you get your shot. Experts have called the possibility of a flu and COVID-19 outbreaks happening simultaneously a “twindemic.”

Flu and COVID-19 symptoms are similar, so if you have either – a cough and fever for example – it’s time to call a doctor immediately.

“It’s really important if you have a respiratory infection to call your health care provider to get advice on what steps to take next,” Dr. Citronberg says.

The measures we are taking to prevent COVID-19, such as masking, social distancing and hand hygiene also help to prevent transmission of influenza. This may really help us keep flu numbers down this year, which would be welcome news.

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