So now you’re fully vaccinated. Can you go back to your life as you knew it before the coronavirus hit? That would be a no, at least according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The three vaccines approved for emergency use in the United States are effective at preventing COVID-19 disease, especially severe illness and death. A growing body of evidence also suggests that vaccinated people are less likely to get infected, without getting symptoms, and spread the virus to others, the CDC says. But scientists are still learning how long vaccine protection lasts and how much the vaccines protect against emerging variants.
Given the uncertainty and the continued prevalence of the virus throughout the country, the agency is recommending a limited return to normal for the fully vaccinated, who number 1.91 million, or 28 percent of the state’s population, as of Thursday.
The CDC says, for example, people who are fully vaccinated — two weeks beyond their second shot of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines or their first shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — can mingle indoors maskless with others who are also fully vaccinated. But they shouldn’t gather indoors maskless with more than one other unvaccinated household. Or with anyone at increased risk for severe illness from the virus.
To get more of a feel for how the fully vaccinated should behave, we asked a group of experts what they felt comfortable — and uncomfortable — doing now that they’ve gotten their shots. They’re still being careful. Here’s what they said:
Dr. Howard Koh, professor at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and former US assistant health secretary and Massachusetts public health commissioner:
“I reach full vaccination status in a week. As the University and School are still closed, professors like me are still doing all work online — teaching classes, delivering lectures, directing research teams, and attending meetings. Wearing a mask, I feel comfortable getting together with small gatherings of my immediate family only — most of whom are either fully vaccinated or on their way. And it would be great to soon have a restaurant meal outdoors again.”
“But I personally will wait for herd immunity before resuming activities involving bigger social functions, going to theaters, or air travel.”
Dr. Helen Boucher, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Tufts Medical Center:
“I am extremely grateful for the gift science gave us in the form of COVID vaccines but concerned about the unacceptably high number of infections, as well as the increase in circulating variants of concern (most notably the B.1.1.7 strain), in our state today. We still have work to do in mitigating spread of COVID-19 and vaccinating more individuals.”
“Personally, I feel so fortunate to be fully vaccinated and am comfortable visiting my fully vaccinated mother in-law and father-in-law and having another vaccinated couple over for dinner at our home. I recently returned to church while wearing a mask and maintaining physical distance. I look forward to dining outdoors but am not ready for indoor dining. Large gatherings like parties and travel by airplane are still likewise not yet planned due to the high rate of infection in our state. Like so many of my colleagues in infectious diseases, I have been at work in the hospital all through the pandemic and using standard precautions in the form of mask and eye protection for all patient care.”
Dr. Megan L. Ranney, an emergency physician at Rhode Island Hospital and director of the Brown-Lifespan Center for Digital Health:
“I have been fully vaccinated since mid-January, and I will say that what I am comfortable doing increases proportionally to the number of people around me who are also fully vaccinated. Now my parents are vaccinated so I get to go to their house and, although my children are not yet vaccinated, because my children are low-risk, I bring them with me. So I spent Easter dinner at my parents’ house.”
“I’ll get on an airplane myself at this point, now that I’m fully vaccinated, but I won’t bring my family with me because my husband and children are not vaccinated.”
“As the number of folks in my social circle who are fully vaccinated increases, the number of things that I feel are safe to do with them continues to increase. Just in the past couple of weeks, I’ve had an in-person work meeting along with other folks who I know have been vaccinated, and that was the first time I’ve done that in 13 months.”
“There are still some things I am not doing. Eating indoors at restaurants is one. Although these vaccines are amazing, they are not 100 percent. To be somewhere indoors with the current rate of COVID what it is and being there without a mask on — it’s just not worth it.”
Dr. David Hamer, an infectious disease expert at Boston University and a physician at Boston Medical Center
“Relative discomfort: riding on a crowded elevator; riding a crowded city bus or subway line for more than 15-20 minutes unless everyone on board is being compliant with mask use; and taking medium-length domestic flights (1-5 hours).”
“With great trepidation: long-haul air flights (more than 5 hours); dining in a crowded, poorly-ventilated restaurant; attending a large party indoors (more than eight people especially if their vaccination status is unknown); attending an indoor sports event.”
“I feel comfortable with short trips on public transportation (I have been taking the No. 1 bus to work since March 2020 (only three to eight times per month instead of 20-plus) but it has generally been empty until recently; outdoor dining; a de-densified movie theater with universal mask use; and having a small gathering with friends who I know have been vaccinated or extremely cautious with their social contacts.”
Dr. Paul Sax, clinical director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital:
“Vaccines reduce the risk of COVID-19 across the spectrum – severe disease, mild disease, even asymptomatic infection. As a result, I’m much more comfortable traveling in an airplane (where ventilation is actually pretty good), as well as a train (same). I also agree with the CDC that small group gatherings that include other vaccinated people are quite safe, and since I felt comfortable dining outside at a restaurant last year, feel even better about it this year with the vaccines!”
“The higher-risk activities will have to await a decline in case numbers — I mean in particular indoor dining, going to bars, and exercising in gyms. Still not eager to do any of these things.”
“On a personal level, I play in a regular poker game. (Stakes are very low.) We look forward to a time when the group is fully vaccinated! For now, we’ll continue to play each other online.”
Responses have been edited to conform to Globe style. Jeremiah Manion of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
Martin Finucane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.