Retire Better: Vaccinated seniors can loosen up—but everyone still needs to be cautious


Don’t make too much of the news that Johnson & Johnson’s

COVID-19 vaccines will be temporarily taken offline while authorities investigate six cases of blood clotting—one of which, news reports claim, killed a 45-year old Virginia woman. 

President Biden said Tuesday that there is still “enough vaccine—that is 100% unquestionable—for every single solitary American,” though he should have clarified to say “every adult American,” given that vaccines for children have yet to be approved. 

The bottom line is that vaccinations are rolling along—3.38 million doses a day were given on average over the past seven days—bringing the number of Americans who have been fully vaccinated as of Monday morning to 74 million, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

So with tens of millions now vaccinated, the conversation is shifting from “When will I get my shot?,” to “OK, I’ve been vaccinated, is it safe to go out?” 

Here’s what you should know. 

First, this reminder. As liberating as getting vaccinated feels, the CDC says that while the vaccines being administered are terrific, 100% effectiveness cannot be guaranteed. In fact, it said late Wednesday that an estimated 5,800 people—who had been fully vaccinated—have since contracted the virus

Also, you’re not considered fully vaccinated until at least two weeks after your last shot, says the CDC. If that’s you, continue to take all precautions for a few more days, You’re almost there. 

If you’ve already passed this threshold—congrats!—here is what the CDC and other authorities say you’re free to do: 

  • Visit inside a home or private setting without a mask with other fully vaccinated people of any age. There’s no need to stay 6 feet apart, either. Give a hug, get a hug.
  • You can gather indoors with unvaccinated people of any age from one other household (for example, visiting with relatives who all live together) without masks or staying 6 feet apart, unless any of them has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • Visit inside a home or private setting without a mask with one household of unvaccinated people who are not at risk for severe illness.
  • Specific venues, like restaurants, gyms, and workout classes are generally OK, though again, the CDC cautions that such things aren’t risk-free, only lower risk. It repeats: “precautions should still be taken as transmission risk in these settings is higher and likely increases with the number of unvaccinated people present.”

What about travel? 

  • Travel within the United States without a pre- or post-travel test is OK, and there’s no need to quarantine afterward. But you should still wear a face covering, avoid crowds as best you can, wash your hands often and avoid unvaccinated people if possible.

What about international travel? Much of the world lags behind the United States in vaccination levels, and for that reason, even though you’ve gotten your shot or shots, you might not be able to travel to very many places. The European Union still bans nonessential travel from the United States, for example.

Here are two good resources to check. The CDC’s website has a very good “Travel Recommendations by Destination” page; the State Department’s website can also give you an update on conditions and requirements on a country-by-country basis. Airline websites may also be hopeful. The bottom line: Don’t think that just because you’ve been fully vaccinated you can just hop on a plane and go to Paris or Rome.

Because you probably can’t. Perhaps later this year. 

Other than travel, the CDC recommends continued caution, even though you’ve been fully vaccinated. That means go to the grocery store if you want, or do some in-person shopping, But continue to wear a mask, keep your distance from others, stay away from poorly ventilated spaces, and wash your hands often with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer. 

The vaccine is obviously a godsend for seniors, given that eight out of 10 COVID-19 deaths in the United States have been, the CDC says, in adults aged 65 and over. But eight out of 10 people in this group have now been fully vaccinated.    

This has all happened since December, when the first vaccines rolled out. What’s funny now is that many seniors who have been cooped up for the last year are itching to get out, mix with others and do things—while their children, perhaps, still haven’t gotten jabbed yet and are laying low. Talk about a role reversal: It’s the older folks who are out running around, while the kids stay home.  

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