By Kendall McGee | March 17, 2021 at 5:51 PM EDT – Updated March 17 at 7:07 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – Wednesday is the first day people in vaccine Group 4 can begin getting their vaccines.
This means people with medical conditions that put them at higher risk for COVID-19 and those living in congregate settings can go ahead and get in line for the vaccine.
The move comes as providers are getting steady shipments in and more people are able to make their appointments. As it stands, more than a quarter of the state’s adult population is at least partially vaccinated.
Doctors say now is not the time to let your guard down though.
You aren’t fully immunized against the virus until two weeks after your final dose. Experts warn you can still get COVID-19 before or just after the vaccine and get sick because your body didn’t have enough time to build up immunity and provide you with protection.
The state’s vaccine dashboard shows 1.2 million people have had both shots and another 2 million are waiting now to get their second vaccine.
That second dose is critical and it’s common that it comes with a higher chance you’ll feel the side effects more than the first.
Dr. Matthew Sincock is an infectious disease specialist at Wilmington Health and says that lousy feeling is actually a good thing and it’s something he experienced himself when he had his second dose.
“If [your body] comes across something once, it will kind of keep an eye out for it again, but if it doesn’t see it again, it’s not gonna put too much effort into it. When you get the second dose what your body says is, ‘OK, I saw this now twice, several weeks apart, this is not a coincidence. this is something I need to be ready to fight against.’ That’s when you have an immune response and an immune response in most cases is going to include things like body aches, fevers, chills, fatigue, as your body generates those antibodies to be able to go to battle against what it assumes is a viral invasion,” explained Sincock.
When the time comes to take your second dose, health leaders say you must go back to where you got your first shot to get the second.
New guidance continues to come out each day from the CDC, including changes to quarantine measures and masking rules if you’re fully immunized.
If you’ve been vaccinated, you don’t have to necessarily enter a quarantine period if you’re exposed to the virus. However, you still need to monitor for symptoms for two weeks and get a test if you experience things like a fever or body aches.
As far as masks go, if you’re vaccinated its safe to gather with others who have also been vaccinated in small groups of five or fewer people indoors, without a mask.
The rest of the time though — like if you’re in public — you have to wear a mask.
Doctors say it’s important to continue to mask up because not everyone has been vaccinated and it’s also important to continue to set a good example.
Doctors are also concerned about possible variants of COVID-19.
“We are still learning how well these vaccines protect against the different variants and we do not know for sure if it’s gonna work as well against some of the new variants as it has against some of the older strains,” said Sincock. “And, we don’t know what new variance we’re gonna pop up, because one of the things that worries me the most is that every new infection is a tiny chance for a new variant to appear. So, stamping down on this virus is still extremely important,” said Sincock.
Sincock says the best way to stamp it out is to maintain physical distancing and wear a mask.
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