QCOSTARICA -Since Friday, July 16, Costa Rica has been under a massive vaccination campaign against Covid-19, when the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS) embarked on an intensive mission: vaccinate hundreds of thousands of people against COVID-19, in a matter of 10 days, with 500,000 doses of the Pfizer / Biontech vaccines donated by the US government.
For hours thousands have people from the 40 to 57 years age group without risk factors have lined up on the streets, in parks, shopping centers, hospitals and clinics to get the jab.
This group is part of the last group that would have to wait possibly for several months more to get vaccinated if it were not for the generous donation of vaccines by the United States that arrived in Costa Rica on Wednesday night.
These same will have to make line again in 12 weeks to get their second dose.
However, experts are concerned that many may feel, that now that they have been vaccinated, life can get back to “normal”.
But that is not entirely the case. With the first dose, the action on the immune system to generate a response against SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes the disease) has already begun. The work to build the protection is in progress, but people must “seal” that work, in 12 weeks, with the second dose.
And after that, one has to wait about two weeks for the body to generate enough antibodies to prevent you from getting seriously ill with Covid-19.
“People enter the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) every day who only have one dose. Do not trust yourself, only the complete scheme guarantees you the best result,” summarized intensive care physician Leonardo Chacón Prado.
Why are there two-dose schedules?
Pharmacist Santiago Rodríguez, spokesperson for the College of Pharmacists (Colegio de Farmacéuticos), points out that the number of doses depends on something called the mechanism of action of the vaccine, the way in which it was manufactured and motivates the production of antibodies.
“One-dose vaccines, like Johnson & Johnson’s, have a different mechanism of action and with one dose they give the person what they need, with Pfizer and AstraZeneca both are required,” he said.
For epidemiologist Juan José Romero, in the two-dose schedules, each one fulfills a function.
“With the first dose there is an awakening, with the second, a ‘sociolón’ is attached to the first response so that there are more antibodies and more defense cells that generate antibodies,” said Romero.
What happens if I don’t get the second dose?
“If we are left with just one dose, we wake up the immune system, but we leave it ready for a second dose. If we find the virus, the system could be stimulated, but not at a sufficient level,” explained Romero.
“If we stay only with the first (dose of the) vaccine, we have some protection, yes, but we are playing with chance, so we must go for the second dose when it is our turn. It is raising our window of advantage,” added the specialist.
Virologist Eugenia Corrales Aguilar, who has studied this virus since the beginning, comments: “a single dose is not a final or complete layer. The vaccine is wonderful and very good, better than we expected, but it is not the only thing. It is a process”.
Rodríguez adds: “a cap of antibodies is needed for the body to defend itself, this is not necessarily achieved with a single dose. It helps me a lot, but it doesn’t protect me at all”.
How should people protect themselves in the period between doses? The message remains the same: maintain distancing, use a good mask and prefer open spaces, good ventilation and prefer (where possible) teleworking.
This rigorous care must be maintained for at least two weeks after the second dose, so that the body has generated a more complete response.
Romero sums it up: “think like they haven’t vaccinated me.”
“When you get the vaccine today, it is not immediate, I am not automatically immunized. My body must process the information and activate it. And only one dose does not reach the maximum of that protection,” stressed Corrales.
The schedule is considered complete 15 days after the second dose.
And, even after that time has passed, take care.
“The vaccine must be accompanied, not left alone,” said Romero.
Corrales agrees: “vaccination is not complete, absolute, or immediate protection. They are layers of protection, the vaccine is just one layer. Avoid crowds, avoid closed spaces ”.
Rodríguez adds: “the care before, between doses and after are the same. We cannot rely on not using preventive measures. The vaccine will defend me from not hitting me so violently, but the other measures lower the risk that it won’t hit me.
“In addition, there are many unvaccinated people, those under 40, but also those under 12, who until now have no vaccines for them. In consideration of them, we must continue with the measures”.
Rodríguez affirms: “the vaccine may prevent me from getting seriously sick, but it could still infect someone who has not been vaccinated and that person could get complicated.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) has posted on Twitter a reminded message that “even after getting vaccinated against #COVID19, keep taking precautions to protect yourself, family and friends”.