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University of Mississippi

Take Care Tuesday!


Two poached eggs, medium.  Dry wheat toast.  Coffee.  Strawberry jam.  The Tupelo Daily Journal for 75 cents from the newsstand outside the restaurant, so I can work the Sudoku.

Today was my first meal inside a restaurant since March 2020.  It was delicious.  Both waitresses and the owner made a point of talking with my husband and me, welcoming us back.    It felt so odd.

The CDC has told us that vaccinated people may resume their lives as they were before the pandemic began.

Rationally, I know my chances of getting COVID are extremely small now that I am vaccinated.  Emotionally, I’m not always sure, and I’ll come to that.  In the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine trials, the vaccines’ effectiveness rates of 94-95 % does not mean that 5 or 6 out of every 100 vaccinated people got sick.  It means that the risk of getting COVID was lessened by 94-95% if you got the vaccine instead of a placebo. The actual percentage of vaccinated people who got COVID-19 in the trials was 0.4%, or 4 out of every 1000.  In the trials, no one who received a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine died of COVID-19.  So their effectiveness at preventing death was 100%.

In two real-world trials, breakthrough cases of COVID-19 in fully vaccinated people were rare.  Four out of 8121 fully vaccinated employees at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas tested positive for coronavirus.  Of 14,990 California healthcare workers tested two weeks after their second vaccine doses, only 7 were positive.  These studies gave a risk of coronavirus infection (symptomatic or asymptomatic) of only 0.05% after being fully vaccinated.

Emotionally, I have been affected by the pandemic.  Some days I feel vulnerable, thinking that even if my chances of getting COVID are 5 in 10,000 or less, I’m the tarbaby that might just breathe the SARS-CoV-2 virus right in.

On those days, I wear my mask, I socially distance, and I only go places that I really need to go.  These methods of risk mitigation work, so I know that I am lowering whatever very small risk I might have even further.

My job involves advising other people about health, and I advise them to follow the advice of the CDC.   Get vaccinated.  Until you are fully vaccinated (two weeks out from the second Moderna or Pfizer or two weeks out from the single Johnson & Johnson), continue to wear your mask, socially distance, wash your hands, and avoid unnecessary close contact with others.

Once you are vaccinated, work your way back toward your normal life.  Do this as quickly or as slowly as you find comfortable.

Don’t make assumptions about people who wear masks.  A mask-wearer might be someone who was vaccinated, but who is immunosuppressed because of treatment for cancer or for rheumatoid arthritis and who doesn’t really know how well the vaccine worked in the setting of immunosuppression.   A mask-wearer might have four or five kids at home under age 12, all of them not yet eligible for the vaccine and all of them in school or daycare.  In the winter, a mask-wearer may be someone who bikes to work and whose face is warmer with the mask on.  In the spring in Mississippi, a mask-wearer might be someone with horrible seasonal allergies who discovered that the allergies are lessened by wearing the mask and breathing in fewer allergens.   A mask-wearer might be someone who is nervous that day, for whatever reason, about catching COVID.  The mask-wearer may be someone who is unvaccinated because of waiting till her third trimester of pregnancy to get the vaccine.  Be kind and try to be tuned into what level of interaction your colleagues or neighbors find acceptable.

I’m re-entering normal life slowly, because that is what makes me comfortable.  Baby steps, avoiding my women’s club meetings till next fall, and avoiding large gatherings.  I’ll continue to wear my mask in the grocery store, where there may be a significant number of people who are unvaccinated.  But I’m eating indoors with friends who are fully vaccinated.  And I’m back at the Beacon, the diner where we ate the first breakfast of our married life, on Wednesday mornings.

Dr. Jean Gispen – Staff Physician, Employee Health Center