To date, over 45 million Americans have been fully vaccinated.
An individual is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the second dose of a two-dose vaccine or two weeks after receiving a single-dose vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As more Americans seek to return to some form of normalcy, what activities can fully vaccinated people return to, and what safety guidelines does the CDC advise they should still follow? Yahoo News Medical Contributor Dr. Kavita Patel explains.
KAVITA PATEL: Fully vaccinated individuals-- and again, as a reminder, that's two weeks after your second dose if you're getting a two-dose vaccine or two weeks after your one dose if it's a one-dose vaccine-- means that you can safely gather without masks indoors, touching people as close as possible, with other fully vaccinated people or even with unvaccinated people if they are at low risk of getting severe COVID or being hospitalized from COVID.
So that means that grandparents can get-- if they're vaccinated-- can get together with children, grandchildren or their own children, if those children or grandchildren don't have any other comorbidities or immune problems or other conditions that would put them at risk for getting severe COVID. So that is incredible. That's indoors, eating meals, hugging, kissing, anything you need to do.
If people, especially the adults, are fully vaccinated, it's an incredibly low-risk situation. Not no risk, because children, as we know, who are not vaccinated have been lower likely to get disease or to even get sick in any way, even if they catch the coronavirus, but it's always possible.
So basically, 15 and under are unable to get a vaccine today. The current three authorized manufacturers are all in trials or have completed enrollment in trials for children under the age of 16. We do expect to see some vaccine opportunity, possibly as early as late summer, early fall, for the 12 to 16 age range. That will be helpful. But right now, people are going to have to make decisions about getting together.
If you're in a household with mixed vaccine status, it's worth doing three things. Number one, understanding who in your unvaccinated population or who that you want to get together with in the unvaccinated population could be at risk. And again, it's people with chronic conditions, obesity, smokers. Number two, having a very honest conversation with anybody you're getting together with about who's vaccinated and who's not so that everybody understands.
And then number three, keep the gathering small. So the key is-- and what does small mean? Small means no more than two or three households. When you start getting more than 15 people together, that becomes a little bit larger.
There's been a lot of concern about people trying to have a medium-sized gathering. There's no direct guidance on what that number is. But usually, anything with 25 or more people is still discouraged at this point. And it's because of what I mentioned around, one, not knowing the vaccination status of every person, but two, also looking at patterns of the disease moving from high-risk areas to low-risk areas in these patterns of travel.
If you are thinking you-- and you really do need to do something, absolutely consider having this outdoors, and again, giving people who might be traveling for any event warning about testing before and testing after, and even potentially quarantining before and quarantining after.
ROCHELLE WALENSKY: Every time that there is a surge in travel, we have a surge in cases in this country. We know that many of our variants have emerged from international places, and we know that the travel corridor is a place where people are mixing a lot.
KAVITA PATEL: Here's why, though, you should consider, even though it's safe for a fully vaccinated person to potentially get on a plane and go to travel someplace to meet another fully vaccinated person, two things to consider.
We are seeing rises in cases in certain parts of the country, which is very concerning, as the entire country is opening up and loosening restrictions. So you could be, even if you're fully vaccinated, potentially part of an unfortunate pattern where you're bringing or transmitting or carrying virus to and from high- and low-risk areas. We know that that risk is low if you're vaccinated. But we're still-- and the CDC is still encouraging to minimize travel.
But we still are seeing recommendations that when you're in public, no matter what your vaccine status is, to continue to wear a mask, to continue to distance, until we get enough people in the country vaccinated to get rid of those things.
According to the current estimates, about 15% of the country has been fully vaccinated. And so we still have room to go for getting everyone eligible and vaccinated. So until that happens and the majority of Americans are vaccinated who are eligible, we need to still practice public health measures, because unfortunately, we don't carry our vaccination status, you know, on our shirts.