Don't Go to This One Place After Getting Vaccinated, Doctors Warn
Unfortunately, getting your shots doesn't mean you'll be able to go here right away.
We're all eager to return to normal as soon as possible after nearly a year of the pandemic upending our daily lives. But even though vaccines are now being administered, we're still months away from beginning to feel the effects in a way that would make it safe enough to resume some of our former everyday activities and go back to the spots we've stayed away from for a year. Specifically, according to experts, it's still a mistake to visit one place in particular after getting vaccinated, as hard as it may be: nursing homes. Read on to see why you shouldn't rush back to reunite with your older friends and family members, and for more on an activity that might actually require a shot, check out You May Soon Need a COVID Vaccine to Do This One Thing, Officials Say.
Visiting older relatives in nursing homes is still highly risky.
It's understandable if the safety precautions keeping you away from your loved ones are adding to "pandemic fatigue," but experts warn that simply getting your vaccine does not erase the danger of getting together with older family members, NPR reports. This is especially true of seniors who live in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities. According to the COVID Tracking Project, less than 1 percent of the U.S. population lives in long-term care facilities, but as of Feb. 4, 36 percent of all COVID deaths have been in these places.
"Everybody got excited when the vaccines came out," June McKoy, MD, associate professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, told NPR. "Families were hoping this would liberate their parents, but unfortunately, we are telling them, not yet," said the doctor, who also works with nursing homes in Chicago. He warns that until enough of the population overall has been vaccinated, "you still pose a clear and present danger to your parents." And for more on risk factors, check out If You've Had This Common Illness, You're More Likely to Die From COVID.
You should still follow precautions during any meetups.
If you're planning on seeing a senior family member who lives independently, wait at least 10 days after your second vaccine dose to create a somewhat safer scenario, provided that "you should still wear your mask, make sure your hands are sanitized, and you should still socially distance," McKoy says.
And as difficult as it may be, it's also important not to give in to the temptation to lovingly embrace each other during your meeting. "Wear that mask, give them a quick hug around the waist, then back off. Don't kiss them extensively, and maintain your distance," William Schaffner, MD, professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told NPR. And for more on what to expect post-dose 1, check out Dr. Fauci Says Don't Do This After Your First COVID Shot.
Even family-wide vaccinations don't offer full protection.
Others have cautioned against relying too much on the idea that vaccines are infallible. During a virtual town hall hosted by CNN on Jan. 27, Anthony Fauci, MD, responded to a viewer-submitted question about how soon it would be before family members could safely visit one another after being immunized. He emphasized that "getting vaccinated does not mean now you have a free pass to travel, nor does it say you have a free pass to put aside all the public health measures that we talk about all of the time."
He went on to explain that even though everyone present at a family gathering being fully vaccinated "would give you as a group about a 94 to 95 percent efficacy," he still advises against hitting the road to meet up right now. "The situation does not change: it is not a good idea to travel, period." And for more regular COVID news sent right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
We need to achieve herd immunity before going back to "normal."
Ravina Kullar, MD, an epidemiologist and spokesperson for the Infectious Disease Society of America, told NPR that while progress is being made, there is still a long road ahead. "I would consider it safer once we achieve that herd immunity level and we are far from that point," she cautioned of visiting family members. "So I would say still wait [to visit seniors]."
While Fauci told CNN in early February that we could achieve herd immunity before the end of 2021, there are a few factors that could stand in our way. "I think if we do it right—if we really efficiently and effectively get people vaccinated—we can do that by the end of the summer [or] the beginning of the fall," he said. "Having said that, there is an absolute 'but' in that. And the 'but' is that we have to address the variants." And for more on what could get in the way of herd immunity this year, check out Dr. Fauci Says These 3 Things Could Prevent Us From Returning to Normal.