Grandparents and COVID – when can we all get together?

As we come upon the one-year mark of the pandemic with much of our everyday lives still drastically changed, there is at least hope on the horizon in the form of vaccines.  By now, millions of Americans have received a COVID-19 vaccine with the promise of them made available to all adults before summer arrives.  This is exciting and life-saving news – but how exactly will it alter our activities and the decisions we make for our loved ones?

One of the big questions families are facing – and therefore have been posing to us – is can vaccinated grandparents spend time with unvaccinated grandchildren?  Though some pediatric vaccines trials are underway with many more to follow, it will be quite some time before a COVID-19 vaccine is approved for our children.  Not seeing grandparents and other loved ones for over a year has already been a hardship and families are hoping to safely spend time together again.

Like many of the questions about living in a pandemic, there is no perfect, one-size-fits-all answer.  Much depends on an individual family’s situation and the risk they are able and willing to take on.  This is a decision that each family will have to make on their own but there is some helpful scientific data to guide these discussions.

Studies have shown that the available COVID-19 vaccines are incredibly effective at preventing serious illness and death from the novel coronavirus.  However, at this time we do not know if it prevents asymptomatic infection or contagiousness.  So while a vaccinated adult is well protected from becoming gravely ill from the virus, he or she is not completely invincible.  There is the possibility that a vaccinated grandparent could still become infected – perhaps without showing any signs of it – and pass it on to others who are vulnerable to the virus.  With time, new data will provide clarity at whether the vaccines are effective at preventing transmission.

Thankfully though, this is a much safer situation than before there was a vaccine since loved ones are protected from serious sequalae of the disease.  As of Monday, March 8th, the CDC states that once you are fully vaccinated (which is 2 weeks after your second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna shot or two weeks after your Johnson & Johnson shot), you can gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask.  Even more exciting for families, you can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household without masks, assuming there is no one at high risk in the home.

As more and more people are vaccinated and the numbers of COVID-19 infections decrease, these recommendations will likely loosen up and we will continue to provide updates to our patients and families.  You can always reach out to your physician if you have specific questions about COVID-19 and the best ways to keep you and your family safe and healthy.  The CDC website is also a wonderful resource and their current guidelines can be accessed here.