How long does it take for a person to build immunity after getting the vaccine?

DULUTH, Minn. – Between St. Luke’s hospital and Essentia Health, more than 100 health care workers in Duluth have received their first dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, but none of them are immune to COVID-19 yet.

Dr. Sara Lund, an infectious disease physician at St. Luke’s hospital in Duluth who was vaccinated on Friday, said it will generally take two weeks following the second dose for people to gain immunity.

“You’ll start to get some protection after the first dose, but since it’s a two-dose vaccine, you really get the most protection two weeks after the second dose,” Lund said.

The second dose of the Pfizer vaccine needs to be administered 21 days after the first dose. So in other words, five weeks after receiving the first dose of a Pfizer shot, people will have full protection through vaccination. Those who receive the Moderna vaccine will need their second dose 28 days — 4 weeks — after their first dose.

The time it takes to gain robust immunity is just one of the reasons why social distancing and wearing a mask is still important for people who have received the vaccine. On top of that, we only know the vaccine prevents people from getting sick. We don’t yet know if the vaccine can prevent asymptomatic infection, too.

“We don’t know yet if people can still transmit the virus after getting the vaccine,” Lund said. “The trial was only set up to see if people got sick or not symptoms or not.”

On Friday, Lund likely became the first pregnant woman in the Northland, possibly even in the U.S., to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Essentia Health began vaccinating employees on Thursday. About 120 Essentia health care workers in Duluth received the vaccine. On Friday, a couple dozen St. Luke’s employees received their first dose prior to the hospital’s large roll-out scheduled for Monday.


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