I got my second COVID-19 vaccine dose — what can I really do now?
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Inoculated at last, my antibodies abound, but reading through an infodemic of medical facts has me asking: What, exactly, is it safe for me to do now that I’m fully vaccinated?
Is it safe to have some fun yet?
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, I imagined the day I got my second dose as the light at the end of this nightmare — but while hope of a return to normalcy certainly appears more within reach, the only light I’ve reached after both my Moderna doses feels less like the break of a new dawn and more like an air shaft.
For a year now I’ve developed a dance of what does and does not feel safe, allowing myself to take a certain amount of risk in the name of staying sane.
Like a liability waiver, the government’s message since last March to simply stay inside is always in the back of my mind — but social abstinence alone cannot and has not saved us. While the time has not yet come for a societal sigh of relief or post-pandemic anything — we are still very much in the middle of this unprecedented historic moment — the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are around 94 percent effective against COVID, and it is both sensible and healthy to begin strategically socializing again.
To say otherwise is to belittle vaccines and be imprisoned by the self-preserving, Stockholm syndrome-like comforts we have mentally created to make quarantine livable.
To find out what constitutes sensible and strategic socializing, I spoke with Dr. Anthony Harris, the lead COVID doctor at national health company WorkCare.
Here’s what he says the growing vaccinated class (which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn you don’t qualify for until two weeks after you’ve had both doses) should and should not feel empowered to do.
Should I still be afraid?
For starters: Once you’re inoculated, you should “have less fear because you’re at less risk for contracting COVID or giving COVID to a loved one,” Dr. Harris told The Post.
Can I travel?
Yes. While the constantly changing border restrictions, quarantine requirements and lockdowns pose a significant deterrent to all jet setters, Harris deems airplane travel safe.
“Even if you’re not vaccinated, for those who travel on an airplane on which masks are required, transmission rates are exceeding low,” he said.
The same goes for riding public transportation, including the subway. Harris predicts that to increase that relative safety further, cities will soon start requiring vaccinations to come aboard.
“We’re going to see municipalities require vaccinations for public transportation,” he said.
Can I go eat indoors? Go to the gym? The spa?
All of these activities, Harris said, are more or less “apples to apples,” and generally fall into the same relative risk category. So long as everyone is masked, he said, the risk is low enough that the answer is yes.
However, Harris noted, “Singing karaoke may present slightly higher risk.”
Can I have vaccinated friends over for dinner?
“In short, yes,” said Harris. “I’d say follow the lead of the Super Bowl. If you can confirm everyone’s been vaccinated and are still doing screenings, have your dinner.”
While there are many factors and safety-related percentages to weigh and note, hanging out indoors with a few vaccinated friends should, generally, be fine — although he does recommend that attendees continue wearing their face masks when possible.
“If they’ve been vaccinated and it’s a small controlled group, then relative risk is low,” said Harris, noting that it’s still important to take precautions if a vaccinated person comes into contact with someone who then tests positive.
Low relative risk, Harris repeatedly emphasized, means something is safe enough but not that the chance of someone becoming infected “is zero.”
How about unvaccinated friends who’ve had COVID-19. Can they come to dinner?
Those who’ve had COVID-19 and now have antibodies should also be safe to come over for dinner said Harris, while again emphasizing that it’s low relative risk and not “zero.”
Studies have found vaccinated individuals generally have more antibodies — in some cases, up to five to 10 times more — than people who have antibodies from contracting the coronavirus. Having natural antibodies does lower the risk of contracting and spreading the novel virus.
“For those who have had confirmed COVID, not just ‘I think I had COVID,’ they should be safe as well,” following their recovery, he said.
Can I stop wearing a mask in public?
No, but significantly for the sake of society, not yourself.
“What we don’t want is to create a dichotomy of standards for vaccinated versus non-vaccinated,” he said, adding that growing COVID-19 fatigue makes this even more vital.
Should I continue regularly getting tested for COVID-19?
Nope! No more need to regularly get your schnoz swabbed once you’re vaccinated, Harris said.
Only if you find out that you’ve been exposed to someone who has COVID-19 or become symptomatic should you, a fully vaccinated person, get tested.
What can I definitely not do yet?
While there is plenty of gray area, some activities are still objectively not safe, Harris said.
“Definitely stay away from large groups — 20, 50 people or more — and still try to stay away from the superspreader events like singing in a choir or going to a rave,” he listed.
Should I be worried about mutations?
Maybe one day, and maybe one day soon, but for now, most people shouldn’t lose sleep about the various COVID-19 variants — although news of them is “alarming,” Harris said.
“As a vaccinated person, your relative risk is still low,” he said of being exposed to mutations. The “variant exposure doesn’t really change your risk.”
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