I’ve Been Vaccinated Against COVID-19. What Can I Safely Do?
Q: I recently got vaccinated for COVID-19. I’m ready to start more activities but what can I safely do? Is it safe to go to the dentist? Is it OK to vacation with my grandchildren again?
A: It did not take long after the nation began vaccinations for COVID-19 that our rates of infection and death from the disease started to drop steadily. There’s finally hope and light at the end of the tunnel, that things are getting better. We are making progress!
Virtually all of us are awaiting a return to long-postponed activities. To answer your question, we surveyed a variety of sources and experts, but the answers are (still) not simple. During the early days of the pandemic, grandparents were the ones sheltering at home because they were the most vulnerable to the virus. Now, as people over the age of 65 are among the first groups to get vaccinated, you may be better protected than your kids and grand children who haven’t gotten their vaccines yet.
Vaccination is likely to make it safer to go to the grocery store or post office. But experts still urge caution. You can’t automatically resume activities of pre-COVID times initially. There’s a lot we don’t know, particularly whether people who are vaccinated can still get asymptomatic COVID infections and pass them on to others like your kids who haven’t received the inoculation yet. Here’s a list of tips that most of the experts agree on:
- Wearing a face mask and social distancing is still important. While the Moderna and Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson vaccines offer outstanding protection, new variants still leaves a small risk you could contract the virus. Face masks protect you. A face mask also protects others who are unvaccinated in case you were to pick up the COVID-19 virus but not experience any symptoms.
- Get fully vaccinated, that may mean you need two doses. Everyone responds to the vaccine differently and, based on the evidence, two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine are necessary to mount the most robust immune response possible. It may take two weeks after your second dose before you can safely resume some activities..
- Learn if your healthcare providers have received their vaccines and how they ensure patient safety. Dentists, dental hygienists, ophthalmologists, and optometrists all are at high risk of exposure to COVID-19. Ask your providers about their vaccination policy. This also goes for medical procedures like getting a mammogram or colonoscopy. For example, your mammogram providers may want you to wait 4-6 weeks after vaccination. That’s because a common side effect to the vaccine is swollen lymph nodes which can give false mammogram readings.
- Planning indoor maskless events is still tricky. If friends and other members of your family have also received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, the risk is reduced. This is especially true if the visit is outdoors. If you are thinking about spending time together indoors, medical experts from the Centers for Disease Control say it’s OK to visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing. You may also visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing.
- Avoid poorly ventilated spaces. Dining at indoor restaurants will continue to be a problem due to lack of adequate air filtration, and the need for tables and patrons to be safely spaced. For now, it may be best to enjoy outdoor dining as the weather warms.
- Traveling is not recommended yet. Until more of the public is vaccinated and we reach 70-80% herd immunity, travel is still not recommend.