An expert guide on what activities are safe for partially vaccinated people, from dating to going to the gym
- Around 22% of the US population is partially vaccinated.
- Two of the approved vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) come in two parts, so for a time you're only partially protected.
- If you're partially vaccinated, you can go to the doctor but avoid the bar.
With millions of people getting COVID-19 vaccines a day, normalcy may be on the horizon.
President Joe Biden announced every American will be eligible for a vaccine by May 1, Johnson & Johnson and Merck are ramping up production of the latest vaccine to be approved in the US, and vaccine hunters are making sure no shot goes unused.
As more people get their first dose of Pfizer or Moderna (the two approved vaccines that require two doses), questions like "can I dine indoors?" or "throw away my mask?" are trending on Google.
There's a good chunk of time - around three to four weeks - to wait between getting the first and second dose. And it takes a further two more weeks after your second shot before you're fully protected. (J&J takes about a month after the single dose for full
The CDC released guidelines on what's safe for fully vaccinated people - from visiting family members to dining indoors. But those guidelines only apply to a small slice of the population.
A large portion of the US population - approximately 72 million- are partially vaccinated. With no federal guidelines in place for this group, Insider asked Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert at the Johns Hopkins University Center for
Can I go to a bar?
Even though a single dose gives you some protection, bars can be hotspots for COVID-19 spread.
Over the summer, hundreds of COVID-19 cases were linked to bars. The closed space, screaming, and proximity to other people are the perfect setting for COVID-19 to spread.
Nonetheless, if you're craving a boozy beverage and you're partially vaccinated, try to drink outside and maintain distance from others. Adalja said to stay away from popular bustling bars with shouting folks and instead go to a lowkey winebar where people are seated.
(If you're fully vaccinated, you can go to a bar. If you're not vaccinated at all, you can't.)
Can I go to the hairdresser?
"A partially vaccinated person is going to have a lower risk of contracting the infection or being a spreader of the infection than someone who is not vaccinated," Adalja told Insider.
So if you've been putting off a haircut, but you have a single dose, going to the salon is a low-risk activity. But if you do decide to get a haircut, keep the small talk to a minimum, as you can still emit viral particles.
(Vaccinated or not, the mitigation strategies in place, like wearing a mask and social distancing, make salons a safe environment.)
Can I go to the dentist?
There's a good chance your dentist is fully vaccinated, as healthcare workers were first in line to get the shot. The partial immunity from the vaccine combined with frontline healthcare worker's
Dentists wear gloves and masks and have added extra safety measures to combat COVID-19 spread. What's more, there were no cases of COVID-19 transmission in the Dentist from May to September.
Delaying dental care can lead to gum disease, which is associated with higher odds of dementia, heart disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.
(So whether you're fully, partially, or not vaccinated at all, you should still go to the dentist.)
Can I go to the doctor?
Similar to dentists, primary care physicians are likely fully vaccinated, and have
Putting off a doctor visit during the pandemic led to disruptions in chronic care and missed diagnoses. People will be dealing with those effects for years.
(Regardless of your vaccination status, you should still go to the doctor.)
Can I dine indoors?
"Someone who's partially vaccinated after approximately two weeks or so after that first dose has significant immunity to the virus, at least for some period of time," Adalja said.
Still, dining indoors is a risky move. A CDC study found that those who tested positive for COVID-19 were twice as likely to have eaten at a restaurant two weeks before. Another study found that a teen got infected with COVID-19 from someone 20 feet away.
If you're itching to go to a restaurant, consider outdoor dining, or plan a picnic.
(Fully vaccinated people can dine indoors so long as everyone in their party has the same vaccination status. Unvaccinated people should not dine indoors.)
Can I go on a date?
"It's all going to be individualized on a person's risk tolerance and what value they're placing on the particular activity that they want to do," Adalja said.
If you're partially vaccinated and dating is important to you, there's a low chance of contracting COVID-19. But if you're still nervous about the risk, meet outdoors or schedule a FaceTime call.
Cautious, unvaccinated couples can get creative and plan a cook-off with whatever ingredients in the pantry or create an at-home spa day.
(If you're unvaccinated but want to date, plan a virtual meetup. Dating is safe for fully vaccinated people, as there's a low risk of contracting COVID-19.)
Can I get an operation?
"You're less likely to be a carrier of the virus if you're single dose vaccinated than you were when you were zero dose vaccinate," Adalja said.
But whether your immune to COVID-19 or not, hospital safety measures and vaccinated healthcare workers create a low-risk environment. An operation is more important than going to a routine check-up, as an untreated condition is riskier than getting COVID-19. So fully, partially, and unvaccinated people shouldn't put off an operation.
Can I go to the gym?
If you're partially vaccinated and fall on the risk-tolerant side, you can go to the gym, so long as you follow the rules.
"I think it's more safe than it would be when you were not vaccinated at all," Adalja said about partially vaccinated people.
Adalja added that partially vaccinated people should follow the same recommendations as everyone else at the gym - wear a mask, maintain social distancing, and wash your hands.
(Fully vaccinated people and unvaccinated people should also follow COVID-19 mitigation strategies.)
Can I go back to the office?
"A partially vaccinated workforce is better than zero a vaccinated workforce," Adalja said
Offices are drawing up plans for a safe return to the office as soon as this summer. Adalja said most offices should have social distancing measures, masking, and handwashing rules in place, and perhaps even stagger who's in and out of the office.
"Having one dose of the vaccine makes it much more safer than having zero doses of a vaccine."
(Where you're fully vaccinated or not, wear a mask when you go back to the office.)
Can I take public transport?
"I think having a single dose of a vaccine makes it safe makes it safer for you and makes it safer to other people around you," Adalja said.
Even though the single dose may give you some peace of mind. It's important to wear a mask and keep your distance from others.
(Fully vaccinated people also need to wear a mask. If you're not vaccinated, try to avoid public transportation if you can.)
Can I give hugs?
Even though partially vaccinated people don't have the same immunity as those with the second dose (or sole dose with J&J), it's relatively safe to give a brief hug.
If you're super cautious, the CDC's new guidance said fully vaccinated grandparents can safely give hugs to their grandchildren, so partially vaccinated people can count down the days before they can give mask-free hugs to their family members.
(If you're unvaccinated but want to hug, wear a mask and make it quick.)
Can I travel by plane, train, or car?
"A person traveling that's partially vaccinated is at lower risk than they were prior to being vaccinated," Adalja said.
He added that it's not so much the mode of transportation that's risky, more so it's what you do when you travel. So if you're partially vaccinated and do decide to travel, avoid crowded areas and stay within your bubble.
(Fully vaccinated people can travel safely. In fact, even Biden travels domestically. If you haven't got a jab, try to avoid travel.)
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