I recently invited my long-time friend to meet me for coffee on the outside patio of a nearby café. “No,” she replied. “I can’t meet you for coffee. You are not vaccinated, and I prefer the company of vaccinated people.” Ouch! Furthermore, she informed me, her friends are sending out party invitations with the admonition, “must show proof of vaccination to attend.”
Unfortunately, this kind of thinking is driving wedges between friends and keeping people apart. Before vaccination was available, friends wore masks, stayed six feet apart, avoided crowds and took other prudent safety protections to keep themselves and others safe from COVID-19. They met for coffee with confidence because they all lived carefully.
When vaccines were first introduced, experts assured us that vaccinated people could safely associate with nonvaccinated friends and family as long as the unvaccinated folks had been limiting their exposure by living cautiously and following the recommended safety guidelines. This assurance of safe association between trusted friends and family – whether vaccinated or not — is still valid.
Many people who chose vaccination believe that taking the vaccine is better than risking death or severe illness from COVID-19. They are confident in their decision because the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.) assures us that the vaccines are safe and effective. The C.D.C. has now decided, in fact, that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks or practice social distancing. The agency has also proclaimed that vaccinated people are unlikely to spread the virus. The science behind these decisions, according to C.D.C. Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, is based on Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report research conducted to determine the efficacy of Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines on healthcare personnel at 33 sites in the United States. Conducted between the months of January and March 2021, the study showed these vaccines to be highly effective in protecting fully vaccinated persons. C.D.C. leaders concluded from this and earlier research that the low virus load in vaccinated people would make them unlikely to spread the virus to others.
While C.D.C. encourages fully vaccinated Americans to return to activities they enjoyed before COVID-19 and to forego any protective measures, the agency lists several caveats to their new guidelines:
- It is unknown how effective the vaccines are against variants of the virus that causes COVID-19. Early data show the vaccines may work against some variants but could be less effective against others.
- It is unknown how well the vaccines protect people with weakened immune systems, including people who take immunosuppressive medications.
- It is unknown how long COVID-19 vaccines can protect people.
Given these reservations, the only sure thing are the lifestyle choices made by you and the people you associate with. Rather than trusting proof of vaccination as your assurance of safety, it is more important to understand and trust the daily lifestyle decisions people make. A cautious lifestyle defies exact measurement, but we’ve been living with these safeguards for the past year, and at its most basic includes:
- Washing hands frequently,
- Avoiding crowds of people,
- Socializing outdoors as much as possible,
- Wearing a mask when inside closed spaces, and
- Staying at least 6 feet apart from other people.
Large numbers of people in the United States are not vaccinated and many will never be vaccinated. Like those who have accepted the vaccine, people who have chosen to remain unvaccinated have carefully weighed the risks and made their decisions based on what seems the best course of action for them and their families. Many of those who chose to forego vaccination did so for medical, ethical, spiritual or political reasons. Others are concerned about the possible risks from the vaccine itself. Summarized in an article onThe Defender, for example, the government-funded Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), documented 294,801 adverse events following COVID vaccines, including 5,165 deaths and 25,359 serious injuries between Dec. 14, 2020, and May 28, 2021. Although the adverse events reported are only a small percentage of more than 138 million people vaccinated in the United States by early June, the deaths and injuries resulting from these vaccines are a serious concern to people who believe they are prone to these severe consequences.
Thus, both vaccinated and unvaccinated people are making the best decisions they can for themselves and their families based on conflicting and incomplete information. The prudent lifestyle protocols that enabled people to get together before vaccination became marketed as the only way to survive, are still valid. The best way to protect the health of yourself and the people you care about is to gather with trusted friends and family – vaccinated or not — who have been living a cautious lifestyle. Until the COVID-19 virus and its variants have declined in their ability to decimate the human population, it makes no sense to relax the safeguards. And it makes even less sense to base party invitations on the notion that vaccine cards promise safety.