By now, everyone is itching to get back to regular life. That means starting to socialize in person once again, and with the people who mean the most to you, like family and friends. At the top of that list are probably the grandparents, who are desperately to see their dear grandkids (and you) once again. But even though there two Covid vaccines now available, can you visit the grandparents once they’ve been vaccinated?
As of this writing, there are not one, but two Coronavirus vaccines. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine received its emergency use authorization (EUA) on December 11, 2020, the Food & Drug Administration reported. And about a week later, on December 18, 2020, Moderna also received its EUA to distribute the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine to people 18 years of age and older. So with the accessibility of vaccines slowly becoming available to the general public, it might seem like you might be able to finally hug Grandma and Grandpa once again.
Not so fast, warns Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert and Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee. Even though people ages 75 and older are eligible to get the vaccine as part of a Phase 1 vaccine rollout (and people ages 65-74 as part of Phase 1c distribution), that doesn’t mean that the ‘rents are ready to receive visitors. “If grandparents were lucky enough to get the vaccine at this early stage (and some will be), they’ve only gotten one dose,” says Dr. Schaffner. “It’s impossible for them to have had the full two doses and then wait another ten days for their protection to be maximal.”
But let’s say that the grandparents have had the full vaccination series—and are desperate to see their grandbabies once again. Sadly, it’s probably still not safe…and won’t be for some time. The reason has a lot to do with the vaccines themselves and their efficacy. “The vaccines are only 95% effective,” explains Dr. Schaffner. “We never know if the grandparents have an immuno-compromising condition, and lots of grandparents do.” Unfortunately, that means that older people might not achieve a 95% response rate with the vaccine, and it might be significantly lower, around 80% or less. When you start calculating how much coverage their Covid vaccine is really providing them, you can see that they might not be as safe to see them as you thought.
So when can we return to some semblance of normalcy and see friends and family again? Be prepared to hunker down for a few more months, Dr. Schaffner advises. “This will probably take many months, but at some point down the road, (and most of us don’t anticipate this before the end of the summer), the CDC or our local health department might blow the all-clear whistle,” says Dr. Schaffner. “Until then, the same rules of social distancing still apply: Practice proper hand hygiene, and keep it a hug and kiss-free zone.”
When your kiddos are clamoring to see them, you might ask yourself if you can visit the grandparents once they’ve been vaccinated? Even though it’s been so long since you’ve probably had a proper visit with them, it’s best to wait a little longer until everyone in your family has been fully vaccinated and your state and local health departments advise people that socializing outside of their immediate household is safe. That way, you and your kiddos can cover the grandparents in kisses — and not Covid.