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Grandparents and vaccines: Now what? – Harvard Well being Weblog

An overhead view of a grandmother greeting her grandaughter on a video call on a digital tablet.


As COVID-19 vaccines roll out throughout the US, many grandparents — together with one co-author of this weblog submit — are thrilled to carry out their arms for a jab. In some elements of the nation, these vaccinations started as early as mid-January. By mid-February, legions of energized and relieved seniors had been buying and selling selfie photographs of their newly vaccinated arms.

Grandparents, like different seniors, wished the vaccine to maintain themselves secure. Nonetheless, there was one other compelling motive: the will to hug grandchildren. Ellen Glazer, LICSW, requested fellow grandparents in several states — a few of whom stay minutes away from grandchildren and a few who’re separated by continents — what they sit up for as soon as absolutely vaccinated.

Under, Amy Sherman, MD, an infectious illness specialist and teacher in medication at Harvard Medical College, weighs in on various hopes and questions — some very particular, and a few that may assist everybody. Remember that consultants could disagree about what’s or isn’t secure to do after vaccination. Additionally, recommendation is more likely to change as we study extra in regards to the vaccines and as a bigger variety of individuals get vaccinated, bringing herd immunity nearer.

Whereas the present messages — keep cautious, follow protecting measures — could really feel irritating for grandparents relieved to have gotten the vaccine, they’re essential. Reflecting on the previous 12 months, many understand that practices that appeared so tough firstly of the pandemic, similar to sporting masks and fascinating in some extent of social distance, have grow to be a part of our lives. These new habits allow us to maneuver ahead with small, well-informed, and hopeful steps towards our new regular.

Can I make others sick? Is it secure to see (and hug) grandkids and household who haven’t had the vaccine?

Research present each mRNA vaccines (Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech) and the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine are extraordinarily efficient in decreasing extreme illness, hospitalizations, and deaths. (Click on right here for extra details about these vaccines.)

However we don’t know if these vaccines forestall asymptomatic an infection — that’s, being sick with the virus with out signs like fever, cough, and shortness of breath. So it’s doable that you may have the virus with out signs, and unfold the virus to others.

Usually, the extra intently individuals work together and the longer they spend with others, the upper the danger of getting or spreading the virus, in line with the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention (CDC).

With these phrases of warning, I feel it’s affordable to think about seeing and hugging your loved ones and grandkids whereas taking protecting measures to remain wholesome:

  • Wash palms typically.
  • Put on masks that match properly when in shut contact, similar to whereas in the identical room with others and when hugging.
  • Restrict time spent with members of the family who aren’t but vaccinated.
  • Maintain the go to open air for those who can.

When doable, everybody gathering can decrease danger additional by avoiding contact with individuals exterior their family for 14 days earlier than a go to, and/or by getting examined for the virus one to a few days earlier than a go to.

Can I nonetheless get sick?

I like to consider these vaccines as being a waterproof jacket, versus a water-proof jacket. With the vaccine, you should still get moist, however not soaked. As defined above, it’s nonetheless doable to develop asymptomatic or gentle sickness. A small proportion of individuals could get extra extreme sickness regardless of vaccination. Additional, it’s vital to notice that

  • vaccines don’t all the time present strong immune responses in individuals ages 65 and older, as a result of the immune system usually weakens with age. Subsequently, even when vaccinated, it’s possible you’ll not have the identical excessive stage of safety in opposition to reasonable to extreme illness described within the research.
  • we’re nonetheless studying about variant strains now circulating. We don’t but know the way the vaccines carry out in the true world in opposition to these variants. Early indications counsel the mRNA vaccines will not be as efficient in opposition to some variants, however nonetheless appear to assist keep away from hospitalizations and demise.

What if I stay with somebody who hasn’t had the vaccine?

It’s greatest to proceed the secure behaviors you had been doing pre-vaccination to assist shield your partner or others that you just stay with. The vaccine is one other layer of safety for you, and in addition helps shield your partner or others in your fast family. Nonetheless, transmission remains to be doable.

Can I go to with associates or household who’ve had the vaccine — for instance, have a meal collectively indoors or have a grandchild stick with us?

If you happen to and your loved ones or associates have been vaccinated, you may contemplate spending time collectively. As with a COVID pod or bubble, speak to your loved ones or associates earlier than gathering, to make sure everyone seems to be snug socializing in particular person and with the precautions others are taking.

Just a few components to debate embrace:

  • How just lately was the vaccine given? What number of doses has every particular person acquired? We all know that one dose of the mRNA vaccine gives some safety, however peak safety seemingly happens about 10 to 14 days after the second dose.
  • The potential for asymptomatic sickness and unfold, even when individuals are vaccinated: be sure everybody is aware of transmission remains to be doable, though the probability of extreme illness resulting from COVID-19 is low if everybody has been vaccinated. Nonetheless, if somebody has the virus, they could unfold it to unvaccinated individuals.

Can I journey on a aircraft safely (and is top quality any safer than coach)?

Begin by checking CDC, state, and native pointers earlier than you fly. The CDC presently recommends suspending journey.

Your danger isn’t confined to the aircraft itself (or potential variations between top quality and coach). How will you journey to and from the airport (public transportation, journey shares)? What about check-in traces on the airport, or sitting within the gate space with others in shut quarters for an prolonged time period? Will it’s essential to use public restrooms, or eat in areas with plenty of different vacationers? These situations carry larger dangers of virus transmission.

If it’s doable to drive, this can be a greater possibility as a way to restrict exposures. Within the automobile, you’ll be able to restrict stops, pack meals and eat and drink within the automobile, and keep away from giant gatherings of those who happen in airports and public transit.

If you happen to should fly, attempt to cut back danger and exposures as a lot as doable. Your vaccine is one layer of safety. Defend your self in different methods to decrease your probabilities of changing into contaminated with the virus that causes COVID-19:

  • Get a viral take a look at one to a few days earlier than you allow. If it’s constructive otherwise you develop signs, don’t fly.
  • Some airways are limiting seating and retaining center seats open. Attempt to ebook a flight that’s abiding by these pointers.
  • Drive your self or have household drive you to the airport.
  • Hold your masks on and keep away from crowded areas within the airport.
  • Keep away from consuming or consuming in ready areas.
  • On the aircraft, proceed to put on a masks all through the flight.
  • Carry additional hand sanitizer and masks.

What precautions do I nonetheless have to take exterior my family, and why?

COVID-19 charges stay very excessive in the neighborhood, and variants will proceed to flow into. If you’re uncovered to the virus, you aren’t 100% shielded from sickness even for those who’ve had the vaccine.

Till a excessive proportion of the inhabitants is vaccinated, I like to recommend sustaining acquainted precautions exterior of the house: wash palms typically, put on masks, follow bodily distancing. We’d like herd immunity in the neighborhood earlier than we will loosen up any of those protecting measures. Even for those who’ve been vaccinated, you do not need to contribute to group unfold of COVID-19 that may make others very sick, and even die.



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