We’re 10 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, and a vaccine is becoming available to people based on essential worker status, age and health risk. You may be wondering how your family should manage it if your 76-year-old mom who lives with you and your spouse who’s a nurse assistant have been vaccinated but you and your 8-year-old son are not yet eligible for the vaccine.
According to Jeffrey Elder, MD, Medical Director for Emergency Management at LCMC Health, we shouldn’t change any habits we’ve adopted to protect against COVID-19 just yet. We’re still early in the process of vaccinating community members, so everyone, whether vaccinated or not, should continue to follow the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Wear a mask.
- Avoid crowds.
- Practice social distancing.
- Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after touching shared surfaces or leaving a public place and before touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
What about hugging grandkids?
Even if you’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19, you may still be able to pass the coronavirus to unvaccinated friends and family members, including your children and grandchildren. For the time being, continue to keep your distance and wear face masks until everyone can be vaccinated.
“We don’t know if people who are vaccinated can transmit the disease while not showing symptoms,” Dr. Elder said. “For example, if someone has been vaccinated and comes into contact with someone who has COVID-19, the vaccinated person may still carry the virus back home and could spread it to others.”
For the time being, there’s not a whole lot of difference between someone who is vaccinated and someone who’s not, except a vaccinated person should not get as ill or get sick at all if exposed to the coronavirus.
Since this is a new virus and these are new vaccines, we’ll learn more in the coming months as more people get vaccinated and more vaccine studies are done.
If you live in a multigenerational home and have been fully vaccinated, you can gather for family meals, briefly embrace your grandbabies while wearing a mask, and go grocery shopping or to the doctor’s office while social distancing and wearing a mask. But until we get as many people vaccinated as possible, keeping the vulnerable and unvaccinated in our community safe is the order of the day.
Just vaccinated? Here’s what to know.
It takes time for a vaccine to build up immunity in your system. The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines that are currently being distributed require two doses, which are given several weeks apart. That means with either vaccine, you can still become infected with COVID-19 between your two doses, so the best advice for families, especially multigenerational ones, is to remain vigilant.
By continuing to avoid crowds, wear face coverings and practice social distancing even with your family, you’re not only protecting yourself—you’re also protecting your loved ones.
When can the rest of the family be vaccinated?
COVID-19 vaccine supplies are currently limited, so the vaccines are being offered to the most vulnerable populations, such as frontline workers, people age 70 and older, and dialysis patients. As more vaccines become available, the supply will be opened to people ages 16 and older who have high risk-medical conditions. As additional vaccines are manufactured, the vaccine will become available to anyone age 16 years and older.
Children 15 and younger were not included in the initial trials for the COVID-19 vaccines, but clinical trials with kids have now begun. Fortunately, children typically don’t get extremely ill from the coronavirus, and it’s rare for them to be admitted to the hospital. However, children can spread the virus to other members of the family. Ultimately, children ages 15 and younger will become eligible for coronavirus vaccinations as we learn from ongoing studies and more vaccines become available.
“I have two young kids at home and hope I can get them vaccinated when it’s safe and effective to do so,” Dr. Elder said. “These vaccines are really marvels of science, and they are extremely effective. If we want to get past the pandemic, we have to be really aggressive about getting as many people as possible vaccinated as the vaccine supply becomes available.”
To learn more about COVID-19 vaccinations, visit lcmchealth.org/vaccine.