A: It will be much safer for the two of you to spend time in close contact than if one or both of you were not vaccinated, but keep in mind protection is not immediate nor 100%. You will also still need to take steps to prevent spreading infection to others until your community gets closer to the threshold for herd immunity.
Why not immediate or 100% protection?
-It takes time for your immune system to mount an adequate response to the vaccine to protect you (i.e., the most robust immune response occurs 1-2 weeks after your second dose). You don’t want to rush out and have close contact with others, even if they have also been vaccinated, right after you get your first dose (or they get theirs).
-While the effectiveness of the two vaccines currently being administered (i.e., Pfizer and Moderna) are quite high (95%) a small proportion of individuals who are vaccinated will still develop COVID-19 disease and experience symptoms. So if you are at high risk for complications of COVID-19 (or the other vaccinated person is), you might decide to err on the side of caution and continue to avoid unmasked close contact with others (even with those who have been vaccinated), until the rate of transmission in your community is substantially lower.
Why is it necessary to keep taking actions to prevent myself from exposing others even after I’m vaccinated?
-The vaccines currently available have been shown to prevent symptomatic COVID-19 disease, but more information is needed to determine the extent to which they prevent individuals from passing on SARS-CoV-2 to others. For this reason, even if you are vaccinated, if you have been in close contact with others (whether they are vaccinated also or not) you could still be exposed to COVID-19 and potentially spread it to others. We think onward transmission from vaccinated individuals is likely low, we just don’t know how low yet. So, if you do get together unmasked with others who have been vaccinated, you will still want to assume you could have been exposed and take steps to reduce passing it to others you may encounter afterwards (i.e., #StaySMART). Indeed, even if you are vaccinated, you will need to continue to #StaySMART (Space, Mask, Air, Restrict and Time) when interacting with others outside your household to prevent bringing COVID-19 home to family members or roommates that are not yet vaccinated.
The good news?
-As the proportion of the population in your community that is vaccinated increases and the rate of COVID-19 drops, measures around social distancing and mask use will be able to be slowly relaxed and a return to interactions more closely resembling our pre-pandemic life will start to be possible. How fast herd immunity is achieved through vaccination in your community (estimated to require vaccination of ~70-90% of the population) will vary across geographic areas and depend on things like age demographics, who gets vaccinated first and how quickly individuals are vaccinated. As communities head towards this threshold, and more people are protected, the spread of COVID-19 will start to slow. When this happens, it will become safer and safer for vaccinated individuals to socialize with other vaccinated individuals.
Bottom line; two people who are both vaccinated interacting unmasked is safer than if you weren’t both vaccinated, but protection isn’t immediate or 100% and you can still potentially pass SARS-CoV-2 onto others, so act accordingly.
For our past post on why you need to keep wearing a mask after you get vaccinated see here
For our past post on how long it might take to reach herd immunity see here
For our FB live in which Nerdy Girls Dr. Malia Jones and Dr. Alison Buttenheim discuss the gradual return to normal with increasing levels of vaccination see here
For even more insight on the stages of “returning to normal” see a recent Vox article covering this topic.