The Covid-19 Vaccine Saves Lives, But It's Not A Magic Bullet — What A Doctor Wants You To Know

Photo: Dr. Teresa Dean, Instagram 
dr teresa dean wears a mask that says vaccinated people can still carry covid

I don't know about you, but I believe the Covid-19 vaccines are a true miracle of medical science.

No matter which vaccine you end up getting, they are highly effective at protecting you from acquiring a serious case of Covid.

These vaccines, once they reach enough people, should greatly reduce the total number of deaths from SARS-CoV-2, which has already killed nearly 500,000 people in the United States alone.

These vaccines can't get into our arms fast enough.

But once you get your Covid vaccine, are you safe? Can you still transmit Covid-19 after you've had the shot?

One physician in Los Angeles wants people to know the truth about the vaccine, and she shared a helpful little Instagram slideshow to get us all up-to-date.

After seeing the post, I reached out to Dr. Teresa Dean to get the inside scoop on the Covid vaccine and how to stay safe before — and after — we get the shot. 

As a board-cerified physican in Beverly Hills, California who is fully vaccinated against Covid-19 herself, she wants everyone know the facts. 

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In a post she shared on Instagram and Facebook page, Dr. Dean explains that the vaccine is important, but it isn't a magical force-field around you. 

Her caption, which I personally found more informative than most of the state of California's health education efforts, reads:

"Vaccinated people may still be asymptomatic carriers of the COVID virus. Please continue to wear your mask and share this information:

'So why are we vaccinating?' a patient asked me yesterday...

The vaccine reduces severe disease and deaths from COVID-19. It does not create a bubble.

If someone coughs near you with viral particles, it’s not magically deflecting them from your body.

A vaccine teaches your immune system so it’s ready with antibodies to fight before the virus has a chance to replicate out of control.

So the vaccinated person is less likely to have severe disease.

But please, for the sake of the lives around you, continue to wear your mask until public health officials feel sufficient data has suggested it’s reasonable to do without.

And even then ... I will be wearing a mask in clinic likely from now on, at least during flu season."

To help get the message out, Dr. Dean shared a slideshow of info. 

Some of my favorites among the slides are:

"If someone coughs near you with viral particles, it's not magically deflecting them from your body."

"So the vaccinated person is significantly less likely to have severe disease, but may still carry covid for a period of time."

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"So please wear your mask until the CDC has advised us otherwise."

I also asked Dr. Dean a few questions about this pandemic and we can best protect ourselves.

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How do you, as a doctor married to a doctor, protect your family?

Not only does Dr. Dean advise staying home as much as possible and trying to enjoy and appreciate the time at home (she herself finished a book and created a 12 foot mural on a wall — and got her kids involed in painting it, too!), she recommends building up your immunity. 

"When you have to be out, [wear a] mask at minimum!" she insists. Otherwise, "Face shield and gloves, if you have them, and do not put anything near your mouth or nose without a full wash of your hands and face when you get home."

Yes, wash your face, too! 

"For immunity," she says, "sleep, nutrition and moderate exercise are really crucial."

Sure, it's not sexy. You can't buy good sleep and eating habits in a bottle, but they matter now more than ever. 

As far as supplements go, Dr. Dean shares that vitamin D has real data behind it.

"Vitamin D 1000iu per day is a good place to start if you have no medical conditions." But if you have kidney, parathyroid or other calcium-related disorders, Vitamin D should be discussed with your physician, as Dr. Dean says vitamin D is something that can be overdosed.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions or confusions about the Covid-19 vaccine?

"The biggest misunderstanding," she told me, "is likely surrounding the nature of an RNA vaccine and that it doesn’t actually impact DNA."

In fact, the RNA has a totally different job in our bodies than DNA does. 

"An RNA vaccine is delivering an RNA code to our ribosomes (protein factory of our cells), to create the COVID spike protein," she explains.

"This is then sent to the surface of the cell [and] recognized as foreign, so it triggers an immune response."

The next step is key: "Then it’s cleaned up by our cells and the components recycled, leaving only the immune response remaining in our body."

So, in essence, the RNA is used to teach our bodies how to protect us from getting seriously ill from Covid. 

For those of us who learned a very simplified version of how vaccines work, perhaps in high school biology, this is totally new information, so it's understandable that we're confused. 

The good news is, the RNA vaccines don't change our DNA at all. 

Dr. Dean also wishes to clarify that neither Pfeizer nor Moderna used fetal cells in the development of their vaccines.

Why do you think so many people have stopped taking strict precautions or minimize the dangers of Covid-19?

"Often it’s simply fatigue," she told me. 

"The average human mind and body can only stay in fight or flight mode so long until it just has to find a way to create normalcy in the current situation."

"But we have to do both," she cautions.

As Dr. Dean insists, we need to "find normalcy and still acknowledge that which is abnormal all around us — the ongoing, very real, global pandemic."

For everyone's sake. 

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Joanna Schroeder is a feminist writer and media critic whose writing has appeared in The New York Times, Time, Redbook, Cosmopolitan, BuzzFeed, Esquire, Vox, and more. She has a degree in gender studies from UCLA. Follow her on Twitter for more.