Could an unvaccinated person safely gather with a vaccinated loved one?

Mar 10, 2021, 5:08 AM | Updated: 12:51 pm
Kevin and Laurie Callahan (L) visit with Laurie's mother, Jean LeBoutillier, at the Life Care Center of Kirkland on Aug. 24, 2020. This was the first time they had seen each other in person since February 2020 when coronavirus raced through the facility. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

New guidance this week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that fully vaccinated people can gather without masks. But how about people who haven’t gotten their shots yet? Could they safely hang out with someone who has been vaccinated?

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“That depends on what your personal risk factors are,” said virologist Dr. Angela Rasmussen, weekly guest of the Gee and Ursula Show. “So right now, the CDC has updated its guidance to say that people who have been completely vaccinated, having both shots, as well as waited two weeks after the second shot, can hang out together inside their own homes, unmasked.”

“And also that people who have been fully vaccinated and have waited two weeks after their second shot can get together unmasked, in a home with one other household in which there are low-risk, unvaccinated people,” she continued. “So low risk there is the key phrase.”

If you or a loved one have any comorbidities that would predispose you to more severe COVID-19, Dr. Rasmussen says you don’t want to be relaxing your precautions, even around a vaccinated person.

“But I know many people, especially older people with grandkids, are very excited about the opportunity to spend some time with their family members who they haven’t seen in person in a while,” she said. “Again, provided there are no other risk factors, I think it is safe. And what the CDC is saying is that it’s safe if you want to get together in your own home, again, with your unvaccinated grandkids, and be able to hug them and hang out with them with no masks.”

All that said, why should we care what the CDC says? And given the missteps of the department in the past under the Trump administration, why do we care now?

“I think we care now because the CDC is clearly under different management,” Rasmussen said. “They are making decisions in a more science driven way.”

But, she agrees that there was a lot of trust lost between the CDC and our other public health officials, authorities, and the general public.

“It’s going to take some time to get that back,” she acknowledged. “Trust has to be earned.”

“And I think that’s what the CDC is trying to do in issuing this type of guidance in a way that’s clear and and makes it possible for people to start slowly resuming their normal lives,” she added.

The guidance from CDC is also fairly conservative and specific, which may have to do with the fact that there are still a lot of unknowns in terms of how or if the virus can spread among vaccinated individuals.

“I think that’s why these these guidelines are really just sort of dipping your toe into the pool,” Dr. Rasmussen said. “We will start to relax some of the precautions more widely as more people get vaccinated, and also as we know more about what happens when you do get vaccinated.”

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While Rasmussen explains that it’s known these vaccines are effective at preventing disease and severe cases of COVID-19, it’s not yet known if a vaccinated person can still be infected with SARS-CoV-2, or if they could then infect someone else.

“It’s still great news that people who get the vaccines are protected against severe disease,” she noted. “That’s really important. That’s a huge benefit for public health, as well as for the individual people being vaccinated.”

“But we do need to know more about how this is going to effect transmission at the population level,” she added. “And since we don’t know that much about that, I think [the CDC is] playing it safe to make sure that people who aren’t vaccinated are still going to be protected, and to make sure that they’re not going to accidentally get COVID from a loved one who has been vaccinated and may not know that they’re infectious.”

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Could an unvaccinated person safely gather with a vaccinated loved one?