We get it. You did all the right things. You kept your distance. You wore your mask. You got your vaccines. And you’re ready to get back to normal.
Now, just when you thought you could relax, you find out that vaccinated people can still get COVID-19.
And that, friends, stinks.
It turns out there is a pretty simple reason why vaccinated people can still catch the ‘Rona. And it’s all about antibodies.
Antibodies are what kills off viruses in your body. There are two kinds of antibodies in this story.
One, which we’ll call Ab-Blood, lives in your blood. Vaccines are excellent at making tons of super-strong Ab-Bloods that live in your body for a really long time.
The second antibody we’ll call Ab-Snot. It’s a gross image, but you’ll remember it. Ab-Snot lives in your mucous membranes, so your nose and the back of your throat. Unfortunately, the current vaccines aren’t so great at making Ab-Snot.
So when you get vaccinated, you have lots of Ab-Blood, but not so many Ab-Snot.
SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, gets into your body through your nose and mouth.
Do you know that spot where the back of your nose meets the back of your throat? There are lots of warm, juicy cells in there. That’s where the COVID virus makes itself at home. And it starts using those cells to make more of its virus buddies.
Once the virus has made itself a whole army of buddies, it starts to move into other parts of your body.
Here’s the issue:
A vaccinated person doesn’t have a whole lot of Ab-Snot antibodies to go around. So when the virus gets into their throat, only a few Ab-Snots are waiting to kill it. So the virus has enough time to make its army and head down to the lungs.
That’s where the virus meets Ab-Blood, which is basically a bigger, smarter army. Ab-Blood kicks the virus’s ass on the lungs’ battlefield and then moves up to the throat to finish what it started. That usually takes about five days.
And that’s why we’re seeing vaccinated people still getting sick. The virus has to get all the way to the lungs before the antibody army kicks in. So a sick person might get a runny nose and a fever—and be very contagious – but they can still breathe.
And that’s awesome! Most vaccinated people who get COVID-19 just kick it like a bad cold.
But here’s some crappy news. The original coronavirus probably wasn’t strong enough to beat the Ab-Snots in everyone’s throats.
But we’re not dealing with the original corona anymore. No, we’re dealing with the Delta variant.
Delta is one mean dude.
It builds its throat army really fast. So fast that someone could be sneezing coronavirus all over the place yet have no idea.
And Delta is very infectious. It’s more than three times more transmissible than the original corona. In fact, it’s up there with the most contagious diseases we know—chickenpox and measles.
That’s why it helps to put that mask back on in crowded places, even if you’re vaccinated. The mask is like an extra shield for your Ab-Snots.
And if you do get a bit of the ‘Rona in you, the mask keeps you from coughing it on someone else.
You might be asking yourself: “If vaccinated people can still get COVID-19, then why the $&%* did we all get vaccinated?”
That is a totally reasonable question.
The answer is vaccines mean people get way less sick. It means there are fewer people in the hospital. And fewer loved ones dying. And just a lot less suffering all around.
There are also scientists working on vaccine nasal sprays that are better at making Ab-Snot. If they succeed, their nasal spray will help our bodies fight off the virus before it builds that first army.
But until then, or until COVID cases come down, think about keeping that mask on inside public places. Especially around kids who aren’t vaccinated, and around older folks who are still vulnerable.
This whole COVID thing has been so tough. So let’s all keep taking care of each other for a little while longer.