Vaccination builds a brick wall against COVID-19; without it, you’re Velcro

On Aug. 23, 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19 disease in people 16 and older. As what we know about COVID-19 evolves, so could the information contained in this story. Find our most recent COVID-19 blog posts here.

When you think of COVID-19 infections and how they spread, imagine a brick wall versus a wall of Velcro.

If I’m infected with COVID-19 and I cough droplets toward someone who’s vaccinated, it’s like those droplets hit a brick wall. They don’t stick. Most of the time, those vaccinated people in this scenario aren’t at risk of actually getting the infection.

If those droplets reach someone who’s not vaccinated, though, it’s more like hitting Velcro, where the droplets are caught and stick around. Those contagious virus particles most likely will infect that person. That person, then, is at risk of infecting yet more people. 

In a situation like this, one of the benefits of vaccination is that it makes you less likely to get the infection. And if you do get the infection — even though it’s less likely — the data we have is very clear that the vaccine protects you from becoming seriously ill. And by “seriously ill,” that means getting pneumonia, needing to be put on oxygen and/or hospitalized, being put on a ventilator or, worst case, passing away. 

This is vaccines working — they were designed to minimize severity of disease, hospitalizations and death, and they have been successful in doing that among people who are vaccinated.

As we gather data, we continue to learn new things about COVID-19 every day, and we try to take that knowledge and incorporate it into how we deliver care.

Like any viral infection, it’s common and even expected that mutations and variants will occur. The good news is that the vaccines currently available are still very effective against the delta variant, which is currently the COVID-19 variant causing nearly all cases we’re seeing now at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. The delta variant is much more contagious and can spread more easily, especially among people who aren’t vaccinated. But among the few people who get a breakthrough infection, we’re seeing that vaccination has largely prevented severe symptoms.

The vaccine is your best protection not only against stopping the virus spread within your household, workplace, church or school. It’s also your best protection from serious complications of COVID-19.

To find the closest vaccination location near you, visit:

Andrew Thomas is chief clinical officer of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and senior associate vice president for health sciences at The Ohio State University.