“When I was sworn in on Jan. 20, less than 1 percent of the seniors in America were fully vaccinated against Covid-19. One hundred days later, 70 percent of seniors in America over 65 are protected — fully protected. Senior deaths from Covid-19 are down 80 percent since January — down 80 percent because of all of you. And more than half of all the adults in America have gotten at least one shot.
At a mass vaccination center in Glendale, Ariz., I asked a nurse — I said, ‘What’s it like?’ She looked at me, and she said, ‘It’s like every shot is giving a dose of hope’ — was the phrase. ‘A dose of hope … .’ “Parents see the smiles on their kids’ faces, for those who are able to go back to school because the teachers and school bus drivers and cafeteria workers have been vaccinated. Grandparents hugging their children and grandchildren instead of pressing hands against a window to say goodbye. It means everything. Those things mean everything.”
Recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognizes the protection that vaccines offer. According to the CDC, people who are fully vaccinated can meet indoors without masks, without incurring significant risk. Also, they can visit relatively safely with people who haven’t been vaccinated, so long as those individuals are healthy, and gatherings remain small.
People are scheduling medical appointments that had been delayed and putting trips to destinations near and far on calendars. Simple things that felt unsafe prevaccination now feel possible: petting a neighbor’s dog, going for a walk in the park, stopping at a local hangout for a cup of coffee (source: Kaiser Health News, “I Can Breathe Again,” March 31, 2021).With a mix of relief and caution, older adults fully vaccinated against Covid-19 are moving out into the world and resuming activities put on hold during the pandemic. Many are making plans to see adult children and hug grandchildren they haven’t visited for months — or longer. Others are getting together with friends indoors for the first time in a long time.
According to a March 9 article in AARP, “It may be safe to snuggle — without a mask,” according to the CDC’s latest guidelines. After you’ve been vaccinated, here’s some key points from the CDC’s new guidance for vaccinated people — including what to know about your risk of getting or transmitting Covid-19 (and the reasoning behind the CDC’s new guidelines). Be sure to check the mandates regarding the state in which you live, as it varies from state to state:
1) Once you are vaccinated, you have virtually no risk of getting a serious case of Covid-19.
The three vaccines currently in use in the U.S. are 100 percent effective in preventing hospitalization and death due to Covid-19. “Not even one person who got the vaccine [during trials] snuck through and got very sick,” said Monica Gandhi, M.D., a professor and infectious disease expert at University of California, San Francisco. “Not even one.” That means if you’ve gone through your full vaccine schedule — waiting two weeks after your second dose to allow your body time to build protection — you are more likely to get seriously ill from the regular flu than from Covid-19. “These vaccines are amazing,” Gandhi said. If you do get the virus, she added, “It’ll be a mild cold.”
2) Even if you’re vaccinated, you might infect someone who is unvaccinated.
This is where the waters get muddy. There is a chance that even if you have been vaccinated, you could be an asymptomatic carrier of the coronavirus and infect someone who is unvaccinated. The uncertainty is why the CDC suggests that vaccinated people avoid visiting an unvaccinated person who’s at increased risk for severe Covid-19 disease.
But the CDC now says “a growing body of evidence suggests that fully vaccinated people are less likely to have asymptomatic infection and potentially less likely to transmit SARS-CoV-2 to others. We don’t know exactly how much the reduction in transmission will be if a fully vaccinated person is infected with Covid-19,” said Aaron Richterman, M.D., a fellow in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia, “but it is likely to be large, based on the available data.”
3) If both you and your loved one are vaccinated, your risk of infecting each other is near zero.
According to the CDC’s new guidance, fully vaccinated people can visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or maintaining a physical distance.
In general, said Richterman, two vaccinated people together is “going to be about as safe as you can get.”
Finally, the U.S. government said that vaccinated nursing home residents can hug their loved ones again and enjoy more indoor visits (source: U.S. News, New Guidelines Mean Nursing Home Residents Can Hug Their Families Again, March 11, 2021).
The new guidance, issued by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), comes after deaths among nursing home residents have plummeted as the country’s vaccination rollout accelerated.
“There is no substitute for physical contact, such as the warm embrace between a resident and their loved one,” the CMS stated in its new guidance. “Therefore, if the resident is fully vaccinated, they can choose to have close contact [including touch] with their visitor while wearing a well-fitting face mask and performing hand hygiene before and after.” In other words, you can finally hug mom again!!!
Judd Matsunaga is the founding attorney of Elder Law Services of California, a law firm that specializes in Medi-Cal Planning, Estate Planning and Probate. He can be contacted at (310) 348-2995 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Pacific Citizen or constitute legal or tax advice and should not be treated as such.