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Nevada is quickly moving towards full vaccination. About a quarter of us have received one dose of the vaccine. Close to 14 percent are fully vaccinated.   

So what exactly does being fully vaccinated entitle you to do, and are you still at risk of contracting COVID?

Brian Labus is an epidemiologist and associate professor in UNLV's School of Public Health. He said that even if someone is vaccinated the disease is still spreading in our community.

"We are making progress towards vaccination, but we're not there yet," he said. 

Labus said vaccines help reduce someone's risk of getting the disease, but they are not perfect, which means people need to continue to wear masks in public and maintain social distancing until more people are vaccinated.

When more people are vaccinated, we can start to roll back those mitigation measures.

He also said it is still not a good idea to be part of large gatherings or gatherings where people are close together. He called that an 'unnecessary risk.' 

Labus said he would like to get back to smaller gatherings first before we start packing large crowds into venues because those venues are a risk for disease spread.

Overall, Labus said it is important for people to decide the risk they are willing to take. 

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"While I wouldn't say to avoid the Strip, I think you have to consider the risk of being around other people," he said, "If you're fully immunized, yes, your risk is lower. The likelihood that you would be hospitalized or die from it is basically nothing. So, you could go back to those sorts of things but there is some risk involved and you have to decide if that's really worth it to you."

He noted that the risk isn't just about you but the people around you and whether they've been fully vaccinated. 

"In the CDC guidance, it's not just about you, it's about the people that are also gathered in your home, so they would all need to be vaccinated as well," he said, "We know the community itself is not fully vaccinated so we can't go back to our normal work lives or school or things like that without any sort of social distancing steps because not everybody is vaccinated."

Besides knowing what you can and can't do once you've been vaccinated, people are asking whether getting one shot in the two-shot course is enough for some protection.

Labus said just having one shot in the two-shot course is the same as not having any vaccine, and it is vital for people getting two shots to get the full series. 

While the effort is underway to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible, there are people who are reluctant to get the vaccine. Some people are concerned because of how quickly the vaccines were developed that there wasn't enough research.

Labus said if people wait for something to be fully researched they would never take any medicine or any medical treatment because research is constantly going on - even for medicines and vaccines that have been around for years.

"I would say that the evidence that we've seen so far with these vaccines is that they are safe and effective in preventing the disease," Labus said.

Plus, he said that so far millions of people across the world have already received the vaccine, and there is no evidence of widespread negative side effects. 

For those who are concerned about what happens 10 years down the road, Labus said researchers would have to wait 10 years to see any negative side effects anyway, but the vaccine and live coronavirus are made from the same material and will have the same long-term impacts - if there are any. 

There are efforts to tackle that vaccine mistrust. The recently passed COVID relief bill included millions to help educate people about vaccines.

The Ad Council, which is a nonprofit made up of advertising and marketing companies dedicated to social change, is working on an ad campaign targeting vaccine skeptics.

Anjala Krishen is a professor of marketing and international business at UNLV. She says the advertising for the vaccine needs to hit people with emotions but also cognitive reasoning. 

"If you can get people to really interpret this material, you build their knowledge," Krishen said, "You build the consumer's knowledge. People are more likely to engage... at the end of the day, people want to be convinced because they understand and they learn."

Those public education efforts can help combat fear, Krishen said. Fear is often driven by a lack of understanding. She said more exposure to something can help bring people to better understand and then accept.

Krishen said that concept is based on very old theories about human behavior, known as the mere-exposure effect or familiarity principle.

"This theory essentially says the more people see something, the more they get exposed to it over time, they develop a more positive attitude," she said.

Krishen said it has been used to create positive attitudes around things like wearing a seatbelt or ending drunk driving, for instance, the 'Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk' campaign. 

As the ad campaign rolls out, Krishen believes all available channels from traditional TV and billboard ads to newer social media outlets should be used to get the message out about vaccines. 

She also said it is important that a diverse advertising strategy is used to reach communities of color, who may be more skeptical about getting a vaccine.

Krishen said it is important to establish credibility and therefore trust when advertising, and it's important to represent the groups they are trying to reach.

"We need to find representation that matches the people we are trying to impact, that we are trying to convince," she said.

One of the biggest questions remaining about what vaccinated people can and cannot do is travel. 

Denella Ri’chard is the host of "Traveling with Denella Ri’chard." She said travelers need to know what documentation they will need when they travel, especially if they're going abroad or getting on a cruise ship. 

"You definitely need to anticipate that you will probably have to take a COVID test prior to departing, prior to boarding a plane, and even recently, some of the cruise lines have announced that you will need to be fully vaccinated if you are an adult and their crew will be fully vaccinated," she said.

Ri'chard said she was traveling to Jamaica and she saw a family turned away from the flight because they didn't have documentation of a negative COVID test.

She advises that people talk with a travel agent or advisor before they book a trip so they fully understand the regulations and restrictions they might encounter. 

In addition to rules for getting on a cruise ship or airplane, there are likely mitigation measures like mask mandates and social distancing plans in place at your destination. 

"Don't think just because you're going on vacation, you can act like things are back to normal. They are not," she said, "We are still living, very much so, in a COVID environment, and we do have to practice the health and safety protocols that are in place."

As the vaccine rolls out, there has been discussion about countries requiring a vaccine passport for all visitors.

Ri'chard said Israel already has that requirement and Denmark is working on the same thing. She also said IBM is working on the technology to support a vaccine passport system.

"I think we all need to start to, at least, wrapping our heads around this in terms of travel, especially outside of the United States," she said, "There is a great possibility we will be required to be vaccinated and present a vaccination passport."

CDC Guidelines for fully vaccinated people

 

Guests

​Brian Labus, Epidemiologist; Assistant Professor at UNLV’s School of Public Health; Denella Ri’chard, Host, of Traveling with Denella Ri’chard; Anjala Krishen, Professor of marketing and international business, UNLV

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