Last week, more than 37 million people in the United States received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to a of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Another 13 million people have received their second dose and completed their vaccination series against Covid-19 in full.
Since many are already immunized against the virus, the questions are: When can we start thinking about visiting family or planning a social gathering? Getting vaccinated can ease anxiety about going out, but even people who have had both doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine still need to follow public health guidelines to wear a well-fitted mask and social distance.
“Fully vaccinated“means that at least two weeks have passed since a person received the second dose of a two-dose vaccine or a dose of a single-dose vaccine.
NBC News asked vaccine experts what they would feel comfortable with when fully vaccinated.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the country’s leading public health advisers, told Savannah Guthrie on NBC’s “TODAY” show that he is often asked if it is safe to get along without some of the public health measures such as masking and social distance.
“Ultimately, the answer will be yes,” he said during the interview Thursday.
That is, however, if everyone in the group is fully vaccinated. Fauci called for more caution if only one party has received the vaccine, as people who have been vaccinated could potentially have the virus in their nose and transmit it to others.
“That is why we say until we have the overwhelming majority of people vaccinated and the virus level is very low. If you are vaccinated, it would be wise to wear a mask, ”Fauci said.
While we do not yet know how much the vaccine limits transmission, early data from Moderna and AstraZeneca suggest a modest protection against asymptomatic infection and therefore a lower ability to spread the virus.
“We do not know much about whether or not [the vaccines] is able to prevent infection, which means you may become infected and inadvertently transmitted to others, ”said William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. “It’s something we’re still learning about.”
While these vaccines are some of the greatest scientific achievements Hanage has seen in his career, it is not a good idea to return to pre-pandemic life immediately, he warned.
Like Fauci, Hanage agreed that if both he and his elderly family members had received the vaccine, he would feel confident giving them a hug – but only if both parties had completed their vaccine series.
“One of the best things about the vaccine is that as it is rolled out to people who are older and more vulnerable to disease, it becomes much easier to have contact with them,” Hanage said.
Dr. Jay Varkey, an associate professor of infectious disease at Emory University in Atlanta, said that while he has completed his vaccine series and his parents are close to doing the same, he would only feel confident giving them a hug if the transmission rates in society is low. He added that if his older family members were important workers, he would give it even more time.
“If my family members were out in the community as important workers who had to work in factories or in school environments where they are mixed with many other people, many of whom are not vaccinated, I would stay a little longer,” said Varkey.
Experts with infectious diseases also had different opinions on whether they would feel safe by gathering indoors with friends.
Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease physician at UCSF Health, has suggested the formation of “immunity bubbles” with other members who have also been vaccinated. Within the bubble, friends and family who are fully vaccinated can gather without masks or social distance.
For example, Chin-Hong has a group of five to seven colleagues in the workplace who have completed their vaccine series and are looking forward to having them for dinner. Within these bubbles, it is safe to gather without masks and social distance.
“We had to wear masks before we got into my home or dinner, but once I was in there, I think I would feel comfortable with everyone taking off their masks, sitting around the table, watching a football game or listening. to music, ”Chin-Hong told NBC News on Thursday during a” Doc to Doc “Facebook Live interview with senior medical correspondent Dr. John Torres. “This is all I’ve been putting off for more than a year, and I can’t wait to do it.”
Hanage called for a little more caution in temporarily gathering indoors without masks until the virus becomes more under control in the community.
“We’ll have to keep an eye on this virus. It’s very sneaky, so be careful,” Hanage said. “If I was in that situation, I would keep the mask on until now, but I would look forward to taking it off.”
While experts had different opinions on what is safe after vaccination, they all agreed on one thing: Do not lose the mask when out in public.
“Other people do not know that you have been vaccinated, so by wearing a mask you show that whether or not you have been vaccinated, you still look like them,” Hanage said.
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