You Got the COVID Vaccine. Now What?
What kind of safety precautions do vaccinated adults still need to take?
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While you’re likely feeling antsy to see those grandparents, especially if they’ve been isolated during the pandemic, you must be cautious. It’s going take a while before everyone in a family is vaccinated, especially since vaccines haven’t been authorized for use in children (who can carry COVID and be asymptomatic). “It’s the most common question I get,” Calderon says. “I say ‘yes,’ but do so safely.”
When you’re seeing people who have received both doses of the vaccine, you have a lower risk of getting sick. For example, two vaccinated grandparents can see their two vaccinated adult children with low risk. The larger a circle gets, the larger the risk becomes. “Once both the grandparents and their grandchildren are vaccinated and the group is kept small, the risk of someone having COVID and transmitting it to someone else is low,” Dr. Buchholz says.
Can I travel once I'm vaccinated?
The virus has impacted all forms of travel from commuters who avoid mass transit to vacationers cancelling trips. If it’s essential travel, then of course do so—but “you still have to take precautions if you’re traveling,” says Dr. Mandal. “Not everyone is vaccinated.” Follow safety measures like mask-wearing, frequent handwashing, and social distancing, and look into the travel restrictions and guidelines for where you’re going. It’s not the travel itself that’s an issue; it’s who you might be encountering during that travel.
Can I attend a large gathering if I got the vaccine?
Facebook may be taunting you with memories of a Broadway show or a Knicks game. Unfortunately, it may be a while before we’re attending a packed concert, performing arts show, or sporting event—though Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that large arenas and stadiums can host in-person events, with strict rules in place, starting Feb. 23. This is especially true for gatherings that are in an enclosed space, which is risky because you don’t know if the strangers around you have been vaccinated. “Until there is less COVID in the community, avoiding large gatherings is still essential to prevent the spread of the virus,” Dr. Buchholz says.
Can I go to restaurants if I'm vaccinated?
Maskless dining indoors carries some risk (when looking at contact tracing data from September-November 2020, 1.43% of COVID cases in NY were from restaurants and bars, according to the Governor’s office). As you talk and chew, your respiratory droplets are spreading all around. You may be transmitting the virus through those droplets, which can float and linger in poorly ventilated spaces. (Most restaurants lack the proper indoor air filtration equipment.) You also want to take into account the rates in your community. If the rates are high, Dr. Mandal says, it’s not wise to eat indoors. Outdoor dining, as well as takeout and delivery, are lower risk options. Ultimately, the decision is up to you and your comfort level.
Bottom line? Stay vigilant! While the vaccine is a big step in the right direction, we’re unfortunately still a long way from a new normal.