Vaccinations in the U.S. continue to accelerate. More than 1 million Americans are getting vaccinated per day, which is helping us get one step closer to herd immunity.
But with a large portion of the population still ineligible for vaccination, and uncertainty around whether vaccinated people can spread the disease, many immunized Americans are wondering: Is it safe to gather with friends and family? Yahoo News Medical Contributor Dr. Kavita Patel explains.
KAVITA PATEL: We know that being vaccinated means you're less likely to get really sick or go to the hospital or die, which is very important. We still don't know if it will be enough to be vaccinated to prevent you from giving the virus to someone else. Getting the vaccine reduces your risk dramatically for the elderly parents or grandparents, but it's not zero.
And then if you have to travel, that can introduce new risk. And then, of course, if you're gathering indoors and you're close together, you could still be transferring the virus without realizing it.
So before we reach herd immunity, which we think is about 70% to 80% of the population being either immunized or have immunity because they've been infected, we really need to continue to mask, distance, everything we've been talking about. But we had one new piece of information from a CDC study that was released recently that illustrates that double masking-- we've talked about it, but now we have evidence that double masking can be almost as good or even potentially better than those N95 masks, which are medical-use primarily. So double masking, social distance, handwashing, avoiding crowded spaces-- those are all the things that we will continue to need to do.
If your elderly parents or grandparents are vaccinated, is it safe to see them is very important. Because a lot of people are going to be in exactly that situation, where their parents or grandparents might be vaccinated, and they had their two doses. And it's been at least a couple of weeks since their second dose, so we think they're at their full immunity. But you might not be vaccinated, or your kids are not vaccinated yet. And so you still have a risk of both getting and giving the virus.
So I think anybody who's considering visiting their parents or a grandparent, you really need to think about all the risk factors. You need to just talk about these risks, and then do what you can to try and decrease them.
Make sure that if you're traveling, you look at the case rates or the community spread from where you're going to and where you're coming from. Cases are dropping dramatically, but they're still pretty high in some communities.
Talk about whether or not you're comfortable gathering indoors, or if it's possible to gather outdoors. Because we know, at least with outdoor, air can be much more able to circulate at a higher degree than indoors.
And then I think the trillion dollar question is, can you hug your grandchildren or grandparents or parents? And here's where I say you need to have a conversation. I think some families have been so torn apart because of this pandemic, and I think the mental health effect of not touching, not being able to be near a loved one, can also be a very important factor to take into consideration.
I've had some patients who have said, I'm not going to live another couple of years. I want to take this time to see my family now. That should be a reason to consider doing as much as possible to protect yourselves, but acknowledging mutually that there are risks involved. And then deciding how to take those risks as safely as possible.