Ahh, that post-vaccine feeling of relief. That glimpse of the light at the end of a year-long tunnel. The thoughts of plans for travel, visiting loved ones, and even - gasp - eating at a restaurant or going to a concert! So just what can we do safely once we have our vaccines? Today we'll look at how being vaccinated impacts your ability to gather, travel, and seek out entertainment.
First, what is considered being vaccinated? A full vaccination is receiving the full dose (2 shots for Modern and Pfizer, 1 shot for Johnson&Johnson) plus the recommended time for the vaccine to take effect, usually 2 weeks. Now, before we go into the broadened opportunities for vaccinated individuals, let's start with a quick review of what is still the same: We should all continue to wear masks while in public, at gatherings with more than one other household (since risk of spreading is so much higher), and when visiting a person who is much more at-risk of serious complications from COVID-19. Now let's look at what has changed!
Vaccines allow you gather with other vaccinated individuals inside, without a mask and without maintaining social distancing! This means visiting vaccinated grandparents, even if you have unvaccinated children. While the CDC recommends keeping these small gatherings to members of two households only, this is a significant improvement over chatting in lawn chairs in the driveway. Because the vaccine is not a 100% guarantee that you won't get sick or transmit the virus, you should still follow caution when around individuals at high risk of complications from COVID-19 such as immuno-compromised individuals. If you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you should stay away from at-risk individuals for 14 days.
All travellers, regardless of vaccination status, still have to wear masks in public transportation including buses, trains, and planes. If you are vaccinated, you can travel anywhere within the United States without having to test before or after your trip. You also don't have to self-quarantine after returning home. Internationally, you will still have to follow the guidelines of the countries you visit, and before return to the US, you will have to provide proof of a negative test or documentation showing you have recovered from COVID-19. Once you return to the US, you will not have to self-quarantine, but getting a test is still recommended. Looking into the future, a "vaccine passport," while being discussed, it not currently planned. The CDC still encourages everyone, even those with vaccinations, to restrict travel to essential travel only.
Dining out, going to concerts, and visiting parks - all these activities are safe for those who are vaccinated. While outdoor dining is still the best choice, those with vaccinations can enjoy a meal at an indoor restaurant safely, even if returning home to unvaccinated children. Outdoor concerts are safe as well, but the audience should maintain social distancing since we are all not yet vaccinated. In fact, the CDC still encourages avoiding medium and large gatherings until we reach higher percentages of vaccinated members of our communities. What about entertainment for children? Birthday parties are fine if held outdoors and children sit apart while eating. (Candle-blowing should take place only on a single-serving cupcake.) Parks and other outings are also considered safe for families, while masks are encouraged if the location is particularly crowded. Movies and other indoor activities should still be considered risky, especially in areas where high transmissions are still occuring.
Even though some major parts of life have still not returned to normal, the increased vaccination rates are leading to the return of some of our most treasured life experiences. Just the idea of visiting grandparents again is enough for a celebration! We'll add just one more thing you can do now that you have your vaccine: Try to help others get their vaccines! Help people understand the importance of the vaccine, or help them navigate online registration so that they can secure an appointment. Let's spread something good - information, awareness, and maybe even a little joy.