With COVID-19 vaccines beginning to roll out to more people, many are looking ahead to when life returns to normal -- but should people expect to be able to quit social distancing with friends and loved ones once everyone has been vaccinated?
What to Expect Once You and Friends/Extended Family Are Vaccinated
Virologist Angela Rasmussen notes the current vaccines are only 95 percent effective at preventing symptomatic disease after two doses, which means there is some risk gathering with others and it may still be possible to contract the virus from someone -- even if they are vaccinated. She explains, "If your entire group of friends have all gotten the full vaccine regimen and at least a week has passed since their second shot, it probably is okay for you to get together with them in a closed setting, where you’re not interacting with the public." The experts note those with underlying health issues or if people in the group live with vulnerable unvaccinated individuals, to be even more mindful of the possible risk of gathering.
What to Expect When Your City/State Reaches Herd Immunity
Dr. Anthony Fauci says we should expect to wear masks and continue to socially distance until 75 to 85 percent of the population is vaccinated. Once this level has been reached in your area or state, safety requirements and restrictions will likely begin to lift, and access to schools, movie theaters, and indoor dining at restaurants could resume. They note if the country is largely vaccinated that travel to other states would likely be safe, but note traveling to areas or countries still working on their vaccination rollout would not be advised.
What to Expect When International Herd Immunity Is Achieved and What to Consider before Going Abroad
Widespread global vaccination and worldwide herd immunity is not expected until 2022 or later, say the experts. Because we are still not sure how well the vaccine will be at preventing the transmission of the virus, it is still too early to say if people should expect to travel internationally to an area where the citizens have yet to receive the vaccine. Epidemiologist Eleanor Murray tells Vox “If we do find that it prevents 95 percent of infections, then I’d say yeah, if you and all your friends are vaccinated, plan that Fiji vacation, go wild, spend your tourism dollars helping economies of places that can’t yet afford the vaccine! But if it turns out that no … then it would be really inappropriate to be going somewhere where they can’t afford the vaccine and still spreading disease.”
Health experts believe by March of this year more will be known about the effectiveness of the vaccine and how well it prevents infection and transmission. Until then, we all must continue to wear masks, socially distance, wash our hands, and avoid crowds.