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What does it mean to be "fully vaccinated"

“COVID has actually decreased the life expectancy of Americans. And that hadn't happened, you know, and since the flu of 1918,” said Dr. Steve Threlkeld.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — With COVID cases going up all over the country and people now getting booster shots, some wonder what it means to be "fully vaccinated." Is it two doses? Three? We ask the experts.

“COVID has actually decreased the life expectancy of Americans. And that hadn't happened, you know, and since the flu of 1918,” said Dr. Steve Threlkeld, Baptist Memorial Hospital’s Infectious Disease expert.

Our defenses are still up especially when talking about vaccinations. But what does it mean to be fully vaccinated?

“I think the definition fully vaccinated depends on what you're trying to avoid. I mean, what's your goal here. And that's been one of the real problems with the booster itself. That's why it's been one of the least unanimous sorts of topics with COVID,” said Dr. Threlkeld.

We started with the two-dose or one-dose vaccine. Now, we have the booster which was up in the air initially.

“There was not total agreement and who needed them and what the goal was,” said Dr. Threlkeld.

Sure, the first vaccines did their job in helping to cut down on hospitalizations and deaths; however, time changes that.

“Over time, however, those immunity factors do wane, and particularly in the elderly people, people who don't have great immune systems in the first place. So that's a gray edge to that situation,” said Dr. Threlkeld.

It is a situation that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention work to define each day as we learn more.

“The problem is that when you're the CDC, the WHO, you have to make for the CDC, at least, you have to make policies that affect 330 million people all at once. And so, it's very difficult for them to be nuanced and make a patchwork of recommendations they try,” said Dr. Threlkeld.

That is why Dr. Threlkeld said the best answer lies in the goal.

“The goal has always been first and foremost, to keep people from dying and this infection and distressing our healthcare system,” said Dr. Threlkeld. “It turns out that this is so contagious, that adding some protection against disease at all, and thus the ability to pass it on to somebody else becomes its own important point.”

Whether fully vaccinated means one, two, or three doses, the end game is to do whatever possible to stop the spread.

Dr. Threlkeld said in Israel, health officials are already testing a fourth shot.

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