Only a few months ago, life after COVID felt impossible to imagine. But now, with everyone ages 12+ eligible for vaccination and the vaccine rollout progressing, it isn't just a distant dream. Post-COVID life is a soon-to-be reality, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
If you haven't already, here's why experts say you should consider getting the vaccine and what you can do once you've had it.
See Family and Friends
"The vaccination can give you back some sense of normalcy," says Dr. James Bovienzo, a First Stop Health Telemedicine doctor and emergency medicine specialist in New York City.
Once you’ve been fully vaccinated, proceed wisely and logically, he advises. You can spend time indoors with extended family who have also been fully vaccinated, masks off. That’s right: Grandparents can see their grandkids around the dinner table instead of sitting 6 feet apart in lawn chairs in the driveway. It's also okay to include "other trusted households that you know are vaccinated and in good health" in gatherings, Dr. Bovienzo says.
The only exception to going mask-free indoors is if an adult in the group remains unvaccinated or if a relative or friend is severely immunocompromised.
Make Travel Plans
Yes, you can — mostly domestically. The CDC is currently adding international countries to the "Do Not Travel" list, largely because of variants and lack of large-scale vaccinations abroad. However, American tourists who have been fully vaccinated will be allowed to visit Europe this summer. And, within the United States and its territories, you should feel less nervous about traveling once you're vaccinated, Dr. Bovienzo says.
Just make sure to follow CDC and/or state guidelines where you are visiting. While some places have demanded stricter protocols regarding testing and quarantines, most, if not all, should relax precautions in the coming weeks.
Weigh the Risks
Dr. Bovienzo still recommends wearing a mask in public settings. "You can't let your guard down among people you don’t know," he says. You never know who in a crowd is unvaccinated and might carry COVID-19 or a contagious variant. Like the flu shot, the COVID-19 vaccine greatly reduces your chance of contracting a severe form of the illness, but questions remain about how effective vaccines will remain against variants, which Dr. Bovenzio calls a "moving target."
While reports have come out about blood clots with Johnson & Johnson's Janssen vaccine and herpes zoster from the Pfizer vaccine, both of these have an extremely low incidence rate. The benefits of vaccination far outweigh the potential side effects.
On the other hand, don't worry if you don’t have any reaction to the vaccines. Forming the necessary antibodies after getting your immunization is different for every person. It's simply not true that your vaccine is only working if you have a sore arm or a fever the next day.
If you have the following symptoms, get tested. If your test is positive, quarantine.
Shortness of breath/difficulty breathing
(Symptoms may include others)
For healthy individuals who have had the vaccine, Dr. Bovienzo reiterates that "simply put, the vaccine nearly eliminates your risk of getting really sick from the virus. While the vaccines are not 100% effective, they are pretty close when it comes to preventing death or severe illness from COVID-19."
Still, he points out that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are 95%. Vaccination, he suggests, is the roadmap back to normal life. "Personally," he says, "I feel liberated."
Questions? We’re here.
If you’re nervous about getting the COVID-19 vaccine, Dr. Bovienzo says you’re not alone. “I’ve talked to many patients who were unsure what to make of all the claims going around about the vaccines,” he said. “Getting answers directly from a medical professional helps folks separate fact from fiction and make the best decision for themselves and their families.”
If your school or employer provides you with First Stop Health Telemedicine, our doctors are here for you 24/7. Request a visit to get a call back — and the answers you need about the COVID-19 vaccine — in a matter of minutes.