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SALT LAKE CITY — As the COVID-19 vaccine campaign ramps up, and more Utahns get protected, people wonder when they can get together with loved ones who have already been vaccinated.
Some individuals over 70 will soon be fully vaccinated, but is it too early to visit?
Dr. Emily Spivak, an associate professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at University of Utah Health, said we still need to act cautiously around people who have been vaccinated.
On the plus side: the vaccines prevent that person from getting symptomatic infection and severe illness. But researchers don't know how well the vaccines prevent asymptomatic infection, or the ability of people to spread the virus without knowing they're sick.
So the best recommendation is to keep following local health guidelines.
"We should not change our behaviors until we get a very large proportion of the population vaccinated," said Spivak.
We should still avoid travel, mask up and social distance, said the doctor. But Spivak also recognizes that many of our loved ones have been extraordinarily isolated for nearly a year, and she understands some people will risk getting closer.
"If you're going to visit, it should not be between the first and second dose, and should be at least two weeks or later after the second dose," she said.
That will allow the vaccinated individual time for maximum protection.
If you get together with someone recently vaccinated, Spivak said wear a mask, keep your distance, and meet outside if you can.
"Don't let your guard completely down," she said. "Still employ some of those basic mitigation strategies we've talked about to prevent asymptomatic transmission — ideally, wearing masks."
The vaccines available, so far, appear to protect against variants of the virus emerging in the United States. Even if the vaccines have reduced efficacy against the variants, they seem very protective against severe disease and hospitalization.
When you are available for a vaccine, she said they all offer the protection we will need.
"The faster we can get people to take them, regardless of what vaccine you're offered, the more quickly we are going to get to 'herd immunity,' or enough of the population being protected that we will slow down the transmission of this virus and maybe get back to normal," she said.
It's another aspect of this vaccine campaign that demands a lot of patience.
"I think we're moving in the right direction. I would like to see it go faster and more widely disseminated, but I'm optimistic we'll get there," Spivak said.