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Vaccine proof. Does it keep people safe? And is Cook County’s mandate is too little too late?

The mandate is clear — customers of indoor settings including bars and restaurants must show proof of vaccination. Two doses of Moderna or Pfizer or one J&J shot gets you in the door.

But the vaccine proof requirement is only for first and second doses. Not for boosters. But six months or more after the first vaccinations were complete, studies show immunity wanes. So how will requirements impact covid spread.

Dr Elizabeth McNally is a researcher at Northwestern Medicine.

“Too little too late in terms of requiring vaccine for entering? I don’t think it’s ever too late to do that. I think it’s a good idea Chicago and Cook County are doing that,” she said. “I actually think they’ll see some more people going out to restaurants now knowing that the restaurants are requiring that.”

The policy is in place to help curb the spread of covid. But many card-carrying patrons were likely vaxxed months ago, and it’s known protection decreases over time, so will the requirement help keep patrons safe?

Dr Rachel Rubin, a senior medical officer with Cook County Department of Public Health.

“Yes, it seems to be that vaccination seems to wane at six months, maybe even five months. But it doesn’t just shut off. It’s still effective, and in some people that two-shot series might be protective for a year or more,” she said.

Rubin says she hopes the requirement will help encourage more people to get the vaccine – especially younger age groups.

“It’s our 35, 40, 20-year-olds, teens now that are not yet vaccinated. And these are the folks that tend to go out more,” she said. “What we’re hoping is this will drive more people to get vaccinated.”

And protect those who aren’t.

McNally studies vaccines and the antibodies they help produce.

“A lot of what we are doing right now, and have been for several months is really protecting the unvaccinated,” McNally said. “So it gets a little more restrictive for them right now. But that is for their protection. … Omicron is shifting what we are doing. And I think we are going to see more and more shift towards doing everything we can to protect our hospital beds and making sure our hospitals can stay functioning. And then trying to just the rest of us get on and live our normal lives as best we can.”

As businesses navigate the new requirement, doctors are hopeful cases will ultimately drop.

“We don’t want to close these businesses, so if people want to eat socially with others, they have to be vaccinated because they can’t stay masked,” Rubin said.  “And one really isn’t a substitute for the other. You really need to be doing both at this point.”

“Ultimately anything that helps reduce spread protects us all and that is what we are aiming for,” McNally said.

Currently the CDC considers people with initial doses, fully vaccinated. If the federal health agency does not change its definition to include a booster, Cook County officials may consider taking that step on their own, meaning fully vaccinated will require initial doses and a booster to enter businesses.