MADISON (WKOW) -- Though vaccines are an important part of fighting the spread of COVID-19, health experts say they're not an instant fix that will return life to its pre-pandemic state.
"The vaccine is here, [but] it's going to be a very slow process," Dr. Ajay Sethi, an infectious diseases expert at UW-Madison, said.
He said even though some vaccines are being distributed now, the general public will have to wait several months.
"Expect to get the call or the communication about being vaccinated sometime in June, maybe the summer," he said.
Even after most people can get vaccinated, Sethi said life won't immediately snap back to "normal."
Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary-Designee Andrea Palm echoed this message.
"I just want to set expectations that it will be considerably longer than that before this idea of returning to normal is something we’re really able to embrace," she said.
Sethi said precautions like masks will continue to be important because the vaccine protects against serious illness, but scientists don't yet know if it prevents infection.
Sethi said someone could get COVID-19 after getting vaccinated.
"[They could] become sort of a carrier and maybe be infectious and shed that virus and give it to somebody else."
Since some people can't get vaccinated, continued viral spread would put them at risk.
"Any transmission of the virus that's going on in the community could end up causing an infection in somebody who's vulnerable, but as more people get vaccinated, that sort of probability will go down," Sethi said.
He also said scientists are still reviewing data, and there's a chance they will find out people who are vaccinated are less likely to become virus carriers. But until that data is confirmed, Sethi said following precautions that are proven to reduce viral spread is crucial.
"In theory, we could we could actually rid COVID in our community just by doing those basic things," he said. "It just takes a few weeks to really stop transmission."
Sethi said an additional challenge to ending the pandemic comes from the fact many countries around the world don't have access to COVID vaccines.
"If everybody is not vaccinated, we can still have ongoing transmission because we can have that importation of cases," he said. "That's how we started the epidemic was from travelers returning from other parts of the world."
Though the path back to "normal" life is long, Sethi said vaccine developments from the past week are good news.
"Hope is being restored, but caution still needs to be taken," he said.