As the Covid-19 vaccines roll out across the country—and all over the world—many of us are eager to return to something like normal life. You know, like sharing indoor air with people we’re not immediately related to. Things like that. But we keep hearing warnings that the vaccines alone aren’t going to put an end to the pandemic. So what’s safe? What’s not? Here are some commonly asked questions and what we know so far.
(Enter our usual disclaimer that we aren’t scientists here at The Kinda Guide. We just read a lot—probably too much for our own good—and follow some trustworthy scientific sources.)
Grandma and Grandpa have been vaccinated, but the rest of us haven’t yet. Can we see them? So, the great news about these vaccines is that they are extremely effective at keeping people from getting very ill from Covid-19. That’s huge. What we still don’t totally know is whether they also prevent people from passing the virus onto others. Is it possible to be fully vaccinated, get the virus, and still pass it along, even without any symptoms? Scientists think that it is very likely that the vaccines will also prevent at least some—if not a lot—of transmission, because most existing vaccines do. We just don’t have enough data to say for sure yet.
This brings us back to Grandma and Grandpa. If they’re fully vaccinated—so it’s been a couple weeks since their second dose—they are very well protected from you. (Yay!) But there is still some risk that they could infect you. (That’s probably a low risk, but again, we don’t know how low right now.) Here’s where you get to make a decision based on your personal circumstances. If the rest of your family is in good health, with no other risk factors for severe illness from Covid-19, and Grandma and Grandpa themselves have been laying low—and are therefore unlikely to have the virus anyway—you might well decide it’s safe enough to see them at this point. That’s a personal choice; this isn’t a scenario with zero risk, but it’s one with relatively low risk.
I just got my first shot! Am I safe yet? For the currently approved vaccines to offer their full protection, you need both doses. It isn’t not an on/off switch; protection builds up over time as your body produces antibodies, beginning with your first dose and increasing with the second one. Data shows that you’re fully protected by about two weeks after your second dose.
What about having friends over for dinner if we’ve all gotten vaccinated? Can we do that? Again, the current vaccines are extremely good at preventing serious illness. And they might also be good at preventing transmission, although we can’t say that for sure quite yet. This means that if you have a small group of friends who are all vaccinated, it’s probably safe to have a meal together. Eat up! Enjoy! Toast to science! But if one of your vaccinated friends happens to have an unvaccinated partner at home who is high-risk, they will probably want to wait until that person can get their vaccine, too. And keeping your circle small for a while is still going to be key, even after you’re vaccinated. After all, the wider you open your social circle, the greater chance you have of inadvertently exposing someone who’s still vulnerable to the virus.
Do we have to keep wearing masks after we’ve gotten our shots? If you’re heading to the grocery store or somewhere else with other potentially unvaccinated people, then yes, keep wearing your mask. It’s going to take a while to get enough people vaccinated to achieve “herd immunity,” and until then, you want to do your part to protect people in the community who may still be vulnerable to the virus. And anyway, masks are always in style, right? (Right?)
Can we travel for spring break? Interesting question. Since “spring break” really means March or April, it probably isn’t safe to do any major, unrestricted travel yet. After all, we’re still in the grips of the pandemic, and only a small proportion of people in the United States and worldwide have received the vaccines so far. On top of that, between new variants and the unknowns of the vaccine rollout, the timeline for getting back to “normal-ish” life is still fluid—probably too fluid to lock yourself into plane tickets. If you’re really itching for a “vacation,” stick to road trips with the people you already live (or pod) with. We’ve also got plenty of virtual travel opportunities and Camp Kinda adventures to keep you entertained at home. (And yes, we know it’s not the same.) Hang in there. There is light at the end of this tunnel.
Will it be safe to send kids back to school in September? Children are not yet eligible for the vaccines, although both Pfizer and Moderna are now running trials for adolescents. (Trials with children under 12 will take place after that, and on down to infants eventually.) So it’s very unlikely that children will be vaccinated by fall. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be safe enough to get most of them back in school buildings. Most states are prioritizing teachers for early vaccine groups. And there’s reason to be hopeful that high-risk adults, if not much of the general population, will be vaccinated by September. While bringing more children back into school buildings will likely mean some additional in-school transmission of the virus, children themselves are still considered at lower risk than adults for severe disease from Covid-19. If the adults around them—both in school and at home—are vaccinated, many families will likely consider it a risk worth taking. (That said, some families will not—especially those who have high-risk children or other family members who are not vaccinated. Those families will still need access to high-quality remote learning options, and we are keeping close watch to make sure that happens.)
More vaccine questions? We’ll keep reading the news and bringing you updates, so keep checking back!
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