Can You Visit Your Parents Safely If They’re Vaccinated?
When the news of a COVID-19 vaccine first appeared, we were all relieved to see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, as the vaccination process advances, we’re more and more confused regarding its effectiveness and how we should behave from now on.
Can we start living our pre-pandemic lifestyle once we’re vaccinated? Should we start visiting our older relatives once they receive the vaccine?
Does the vaccine even work?
My post on 7 questions experts can’t answer about the COVID-19 vaccine covers everything we do know right now about this new method of protection. While there are many missing pieces in this puzzle right now, it’s crucial that we continue to take all precaution measures to protect our loved ones.
But what about our parents or our grandparents who have already got the vaccine? Can we take our mask off while around them, or are we able to start visiting again?
It’s still risky
As you might already know, the elderly population is prioritized to receive the COVID-19 vaccine due to their high risk of complications due to the virus. This means that, in general terms, we should still take all precaution measures whenever we’re around people over 65 years old – especially if we don’t know whether they got the vaccine or not.
According to Dr. Colleen Kelley, associate professor of infectious diseases at Emory University School of Medicine, ‘we’re not in a zero risk situation and a few things need to happen before we get down to even a minimal risk situation.’
What are those things? For example, having almost all the country’s population vaccinated and maintaining strict protection rules in every state until the situation gets better.
Unfortunately, Dr. Kelley and other experts estimate that it’ll take several more months until we reach that kind of safety nationally.
Furthermore, note that both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have an efficacy rate of just 94% – and although a risk of 5% may not seem like much, it’s just not worth taking. Maybe you’ll still get the virus and be asymptomatic, in which case you’ll still transmit it to other people who might be at risk for complications.
What can older adults do once they get the vaccine?
The most important thing you should note is that the vaccine does not become effective immediately. Therefore, there’s still a two-week window of risk after the second dose of the vaccine when we should be extra careful as we can still contract the virus.
However, once your doctor confirms that you’re immunized from the COVID-19 vaccine, there are many activities you can safely enjoy.
Dr. Ronan Factora, from the Center for Geriatric Medicine at Cleveland Clinic, says older, vaccinated adults can generally attend small gatherings with unvaccinated family members. However, you should still make sure that the people you’re meeting are also taking all precaution measures.
These safety rules are especially important if there are children around, since they may not take all precaution measures and expose themselves more than adults. Right now, the Pfizer vaccine is unavailable for children under 16 and the Moderna is still unauthorized for those under 18. This is yet another reason why you should be very careful if you have children in your family.
Experts estimate that social gatherings may be much safer once every member of your family is vaccinated – but this will probably take months to happen. Even then, though, there’s still a slight risk for contracting the virus as it doesn’t give you 100% immunity.
“Bars, restaurants, crowded rooms, places where there’s lots of people — these are circumstances that are still considered highest risk that should be avoided,” Factora says.