This Is How Long It Takes for the Vaccine to Protect You From COVID

The vaccine doesn't start working overnight to keep you safe from coronavirus.

The COVID vaccine represents a major step forward for science, and one that will hopefully bring the coronavirus pandemic to a close. But it's important to note that the vaccine isn't an instant fix—in part, because it doesn't work right away. That means that even after getting the shot, there is a period of time when you are vulnerable to the virus. Experts say that the COVID vaccine can take up to two weeks to begin to protect you, and the first dose will only deliver half of the necessary protection. Keep reading for more on how long the vaccine takes to work, and for more recent vaccine news, discover The Real Reason President Trump Hasn't Gotten the COVID Vaccine Yet.

The vaccine takes 10 to 14 days to begin protecting you.

Healthcare worker injecting COVID vaccine in female patient's arm at medical clinic.

Infectious disease specialist Christian Ramers, MD, told ABC News that "we know from the vaccine clinical trials that it's going to take about 10 to 14 days for you to start to develop protection from the vaccine." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) corroborates this on its site.

"It typically takes a few weeks for the body to produce T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes after vaccination," the CDC explains in its guidance. These lymphocytes are necessary to achieve immunity from the virus. "Therefore, it is possible that a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and then get sick because the vaccine did not have enough time to provide protection." And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

The first dose only provides about 50 percent protection.

A close up of a blue gloved hand holding a glass vile of coronavirus vaccine dosage

"That first dose we think gives you somewhere around 50 percent," Ramers said. "You need that second dose to get up to 95 percent." So, even after two weeks have passed from your first shot, you'll still only have partial immunity to COVID, which is why it's essential to return for your second dose. And for more on the coronavirus vaccine, The CDC Just Changed This Important COVID Vaccine Guideline.

A nurse got COVID a week after receiving the vaccine.

Man getting coronavirus test from car

As health experts have noted, it's possible to get infected with the virus in the window of time between getting the vaccine and gaining immunity. ABC reports that on Dec. 18, Matthew W., a nurse at two hospitals, shared on Facebook that he received the Pfizer vaccine. Six days later, Matthew got COVID after working a shift in the hospital's COVID unit. According to ABC, Matthew said he experienced chills, muscle aches, and fatigue from the virus.

"It's not unexpected at all. If you work through the numbers, this is exactly what we'd expect to happen if someone was exposed," said Ramers. He pointed out that it's possible Matthew was infected before getting vaccinated, or that he could have contracted the virus following the vaccine because his immunity had not been built up. And for more on vaccine complications, find out The One Side Effect Dr. Fauci Is Worried About With His Next COVID Shot.

But Matthew's case demonstrates how far we are from ending the pandemic.

Side view of young woman with face mask on the street, waiting for city transport and looking down at her smartphone.
ArtistGNDphotography / iStock

Ramers said that Matthew's story exemplifies that even with the vaccine, the pandemic will not end overnight. "You hear heath practitioners being very optimistic about it being the beginning of the end, but it's going to be a slow roll, weeks to months as we roll out the vaccine," he said. The doctor added that instances such as this serve as a reminder to continue wearing masks and taking other precautions. And for more on vaccine rollout, These 2 States Are Going Against the CDC's Vaccine Recommendations.

Best Life is constantly monitoring the latest news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed. Here are the answers to your most burning questions, the ways you can stay safe and healthy, the facts you need to know, the risks you should avoid, the myths you need to ignore,and the symptoms to be aware of. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.
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