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Caring for the Older Adults

Taking the next steps to conquer Covid19

Nurse wears a mask to stop Covid19

By Holly Carlson MS, RN, CCRN

You may have cringed when you saw the title of this blog. People around the world report feelings of apathy and mental fatigue towards anything that references COVID 19. It is understandable. It has been a long year with a lot of changes, but “back to normal” is dependent on everyone’s diligence and commitment to protecting themselves.

The first COVID 19 vaccine was given on December 14, 2020. To date, 119 million vaccine doses have been given. That is about 4.54 million vaccines being given each day. It is estimated that 70% of the population will need to be immunized to reach herd immunity. Herd immunity includes those who have had the disease.

Vaccination is Recommended

Vaccination is recommended for those who have had COVID19.

Wait, what? People who have had the disease should get the immunization?

There are 328 million people who live in the United States. 26,716,484 people in the United States have had the COVID 19 illness. That is closing in on 10% of the population. Experts still recommend everyone get the vaccination. This may seem counter intuitive, and some will argue that they have immunity from having the virus. This is a true statement however; the issue is no one knows how long natural immunity lasts.

Immunity longevity is also in question with the vaccine because it is a new vaccine and we have had time to monitor and measure antibodies to the disease. However, the unknown should not stop us doing our part to slow the spread. After all this is what will allow us to return to normal.

We Do Lose Immunity

It is true that we can lose immunity to illnesses that we have had. Ever wonder why they give older adults the shingles shot? After all, it is the same virus as the chicken pox, and what older adult hasn’t had the chicken pox? It is also true that people who have had the chicken pox vaccination lose their immunity sooner than anticipated and are unfortunately getting shingles in their 20’s and 30’s.

The only way to know if you have immunity is to have an antibody test. The caveat is that the current COVID 19 vaccine will not give you measurable antibodies with the current lab test. Frustrating? Correct, but it goes back to the privilege of time. It was important to have a vaccine available, but all other supporting tests and medications are as expected, lagging.

The next question is – whether you have had the disease or received the vaccination, do you have to wear a mask? After all, you have immunity to the disease. The answer is YES (and the readers groan).

Continue to Wear a Mask

Here’s the issue and the reason why continuing to wear a mask is the single most important thing you can do to get closer to returning to normal.

1st: We don’t know when or if we lose our immunity to the illness after we have had it.

2nd: The immunization will give you immunity, but it does not prevent you from silently carrying the illness. This means you could have it in your body and not be sick, but you can still spread it to someone else.

You can still spread the illness after being immunized because of how immunizations are made. Like most vaccines, the COVID 19 immunization is made with parts of the virus, not the whole virus. If you were immunized with the whole virus it would cause you to have the illness. The goal of an immunization is to trick your body into building antibodies without having the illness. Plus, if we gave everyone the whole virus it would be like throwing gas on an already ravaging fire.

The Bottom Line

We are closer to moving past COVID 19. However, it is going to require continued commitment and diligence from every individual to get through the process of vaccinating the majority of the US population. If you’re questioning your ability to continue to be diligent and commit to what has to be done to mitigate this virus, think about what you really miss doing that you haven’t been able to do this year.

Holly Carlson registered nurseHolly Carlson MS, RN, CCRN is a freelance writer and owner of HDC Consulting.  Holly is a registered nurse with 25 years of healthcare experience in both acute and post-acute healthcare environments. Her experience includes direct care, organizational leadership, facility management, and organization culture development.

References (February 4, 2021). More Than 119 Million Shots Given: Covid-19 Tracker. Retrieved from

Harris, R. (February 2, 2021). A Rocky Road on the Way to Herd Immunity for COVID-19. Retrieved from

Johns Hopkins University of Medicine. (February 5, 2021). Coronavirus Resource Center. Retrieved from

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