Experts claim it's healthy for two vaccinated people to spend time indoors together, but there are a few things to remember.
It takes two weeks for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to achieve full safety after the second dose. It takes 4 weeks to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Vaccinated individuals must also wear a mask and maintain social or physical distance in public.
If more Americans are vaccinated against COVID-19 every day, a range of concerns have emerged on what things are — and aren't — healthy for people to engage in.
Is it safe to spend time indoors with a friend without a mask on if you and your friend have already been vaccinated?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released the first collection of public health guidelines for people who have received all of their vaccines. But, as with many other aspects of pandemic protection, experts agree there are still a number of factors to consider.
How long do I have to wait until the vaccine protects me?
First and foremost, before planning a get-together with a mate, make sure you're both completely vaccinated and have waited the required amount of time to achieve optimum immunity.
“You ought to be at least 2 weeks away from the second dose for the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine,” said Dr. Krystina Woods, hospital epidemiologist and medical director of infection control at Mount Sinai West in New York City. “At that point, you've hit what we assume is the maximum effectiveness, based on the studies. You'll just want to make sure that whoever you're meeting with is in the same boat as you.”
You would only need one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which gained emergency approval from the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in late February.
An individual is deemed completely vaccinated by the CDC if it has been two weeks or more since they received the Johnson & Johnson shot. Woods, on the other hand, advises waiting a little longer before spending time indoors with others without a mask.
“Some immunity develops two weeks after the dose, but you really want to wait four weeks because that's when it's most protective,” Woods explained.
Other factors to remember when visiting indoors
According to the CDC, fully vaccinated people should meet with fully vaccinated people indoors without masks or physical separation. But, according to experts, there are a few other variables to consider.
One is if you or your friend have any underlying health problems that place you or your friend at a higher risk of being seriously ill as a result of the virus.
Dr. Jill Foster, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Minnesota Medical School and M Health Fairview, said, "If that's the case, I'd be a lot more alert."
“However, if you and your friend are both safe and completely vaccinated, and you want to meet for a cup of coffee in a well-ventilated space for a short period of time, then yes, I believe it is fair to remove your mask,” she added.
According to the CDC, visiting unvaccinated people from a single household without masks is safe, but only if those who are unvaccinated are at low risk for a serious type of COVID-19.
If members of your household are unvaccinated, Foster and Woods advise against maskless indoor meetings to be healthy.
Instead, Foster suggested going for a stroll.
This is because it's unclear if people who have been vaccinated can still transmit the virus.
Why do you need to wear a mask in public and practice physical distancing?
Even if you have been vaccinated, the CDC advises that you follow public health precautions such as physical separation, wearing a mask, and maintaining proper hand hygiene until the rest of the population has been vaccinated.
“We don't know whether the vaccine prevents us from harboring viruses in our noses and throats that are still viable and can infect others,” Woods said. “Until we understand that, we must presume that those of us who have been vaccinated have the ability to pass it on to others and serve as another medium for transmission.”
Furthermore, even though you have been completely vaccinated, there is always a risk that you will contract the virus and become ill.
“The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are 95 percent effective, and everybody needs to believe they're 95 percent effective,” Foster said. “But there's always the 5% chance.”
In eight countries surveyed, clinical trial results revealed that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was 66 percent successful in preventing moderate to serious disease. It was found to be 72 percent successful in the United States alone.
There are also modern, more contagious strains to remember from around the world. Early evidence indicates that vaccines can protect against these new strains, but they may not be as successful as previously thought. More research is required to fully comprehend how effective the vaccine is against the new variants.
When will we be able to interact normally once more?
Of course, the burning question on everyone's mind is when it would be safe to communicate with others in the same way we did before COVID-19. To do so, we must achieve herd immunity or the point at which people cannot easily contract the virus and produce COVID-19.
“We don't know what percentage of the population needs to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity,” said Woods. “At the moment, we estimate it to be at least 70%, but it could easily be even higher.”
Although things are improving, Foster stresses that we are still a long way from reaching that point.
“Things will improve gradually, and we must avoid the impression that nothing is changing,” she said. “There won't be a magical day when it's all over and we can get back to normal.” It's already better in several ways, and we must recognize the progress we've made.”
Woods also encourages people to get vaccinated when their turn comes around since this is the only way to achieve herd immunity.
“I think the most important message to get out there is that people should get their vaccine as soon as they are eligible,” she said.