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An older man wearing a face mask receiving a vaccine injection in his upper arm.

Socializing After Receiving the COVID-19 Vaccination: A Guide for Seniors

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You’re finally vaccinated against COVID-19, and many of the people you know are now vaccinated, too. But you may be wondering if, when, and how it is safe to begin socializing again with friends and loved ones. Brightwater Senior Living takes a look at the latest expert guidance regarding safe gatherings and travel for seniors after receiving the COVID-19 vaccination.

How Long Does the Vaccine Take to Reach Maximum Effectiveness?

Regardless of whether you’ve received a single dose vaccine (Johnson & Johnson), or a two-dose series (Moderna and Pfizer), it takes two weeks after your final shot before you are considered fully vaccinated. You should continue taking precautions (see below), and avoid close contact with anyone outside your immediate household until that time. This allows your immune response to develop fully and the vaccine to reach its maximum effectiveness.

What Precautions Should We Continue to Take After Vaccination?

Even after you are fully vaccinated, it’s wise to continue taking some precautions in order to protect yourself and others. Remember, no vaccine is 100% effective, so there is always a small chance you could still be infected and either become sick or unwittingly spread the disease to others. When out in public, continue wearing a mask, stay 6 feet apart, wash or sanitize your hands thoroughly and often, and avoid crowds and poorly ventilated areas. However, you are now able to socialize with people you know are fully vaccinated without the need for masks or social distancing.

What if Only Some People in a Group are Vaccinated?

You may have friends or relatives who are not yet vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention current advice states that it is safe to visit indoors with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19, without wearing masks or physically distancing. However you should avoid close contact or indoor gatherings in larger groups or mixed households where some are unvaccinated or at higher risk for COVID-19. If you’re uncertain of some people’s vaccination status, keep get-togethers outdoors and maintain social distancing and all other precautions.

Is it Safe to Travel After I’m Vaccinated Against COVID-19?

Being vaccinated against COVID-19 makes travel much safer and means you do not need to test or self-quarantine when traveling within the U.S. However, you should take steps to minimize the small risk that still exists of being infected or transmitting the virus to others.

When possible, drive yourself rather than taking public transportation or flying to your destination, and avoid making unnecessary stops for food, gas, or bathroom breaks. Avoid groups or crowds that may form on train platforms, at boarding gates, or in ticketing and check-in lines. If possible, just take carry-on luggage so you can avoid baggage check and claim areas, and take flights with the fewest stops or layovers. Avoid long distance train or bus trips and traveling by cruise ship or river boat. Wear a well-fitted mask at all times while in public and take all other standard precautions (see above) whenever possible.

Rules and regulations for travel to destinations outside the continental U.S. (including Hawaii) change frequently, so check official sources often for updates. Check for any local restrictions or testing requirements that may be in effect at your destination or may be required in order for you to return home.

The New Normal

It’s wonderful that the COVID-19 vaccination allows us to do more of the things we enjoy and spend time again with those we care about. Hopefully life will soon return to pre-pandemic norms, but until then, we should continue to be vigilant and take the precautions recommended by health experts and authorities.

For more tips on safe and healthy living for seniors, take a look at our other blog posts.