Illinois COVID vaccine rates rising, giving false sense of security, doctors fear

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Rising COVID vaccination rates may be giving people a false sense of security and contributing to rising infection numbers, doctors fear.

With spring in the air and people anxious to get out, Chicago's Magnificent Mile looked more like pre-pandemic days as sidewalks filled up at the start of the holiday weekend. And that could be a problem.

"The key thing to recognize is most people are not vaccinated, so most people you come in contact with are not," said Dr. Michael Ison, Northwestern Memorial Hospital Infections Diseases.

In Illinois, almost 18% of the population is fully vaccinated, meaning they're two weeks beyond receiving their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or two weeks beyond the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

"It takes time for your immune system to respond to the vaccine, so it's not instantaneous," Ison said.

Infections disease doctors warn that you are still vulnerable between doses.

"We have seen infections in patients between one and two, in fact studies show after the first two weeks there isn't any protection," said Johnathan Pinksy, Edward Hospital Medical Director of Infection Control.

It's also still unclear whether the vaccines protect you from infection and transmission. There are many ongoing studies, including one about to start at Northwestern with college students. Doctors say there are some encouraging data points regarding transmission.

"As they gather more and more information, we are learning that it is also protective against transmission," Pinsky said.

Possible protection against transmission and very effective against severe illness and death is enough for the CDC to give the green light to resume travel for people who are fully vaccinated, but as doctors remind people, the majority of America is not.
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