A vaccination record card and face mask on a table.

June 16, 2021

You’re fully vaccinated, but you’re still not ready to be fully open to the world. And that’s okay.

Even if you had your final COVID-19 shot more than two weeks ago, says Jennifer Ukwu, MD, family medicine physician at Memorial Hermann Medical Group (MHMG) Pearland, it’s understandable that you’re not quite ready to let your guard down.

Here are her tips about how to stay safe:

Scenario: You’re grilling in your backyard, or dining on restaurant patios.

Verdict: If it makes you feel more comfortable, wear your mask when you go indoors to order your meal or use the restroom. Whatever the setting, wash your hands or use sanitizer.

Scenario: You’re fully vaccinated but are over 65 or have a chronic health problem.

Verdict: Consider wearing a mask even if you’re fully vaccinated, Dr. Ukwu says. This is true for senior citizens. It also includes anyone who has an auto-immune disease such as lupus or inflammatory arthritis, uses an asthma inhaler on a daily basis or receives immune-suppressing treatment, such as for those with recent cancer. If you’re diabetic, have high blood pressure or have a BMI of 30 or more you also are at higher risk. According to the CDC, if you have a condition or are taking medications that weaken your immune system, you may NOT be fully protected even if you are fully vaccinated. The CDC suggests that you talk to your healthcare provider. Even after vaccination, you may need to continue taking all precautions.

Scenario: You're vaccinated but your kids aren't.

Verdict: Again, consider masking up, Dr. Ukwu says. “Remaining vigilant will keep our COVID-19 numbers low and minimize transmission.”

“Those who are fully vaccinated are far less likely to be hospitalized, but doctors are seeing an increase in upper respiratory infections, possibly because people are gathering without masks,” adds Dr. Ukwu. Symptoms of the coronavirus in the vaccinated tend to be mild and include runny noses, dry cough, congestion and low-grade fevers.

And while kids tend to not get as sick as adults, some do—including after they appear to have fully recovered. Multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) can seriously inflame the heart, lungs, blood vessels, brain and other organs. Alert your doctor if your child is confused, drowsy, struggles to breathe or has gray-or-blue-tinted skin. All are signs your child may need medical attention. Blood tests and imaging tests can rule out MIS-C.

Masks protect yourself and others, and they teach children to play it safe. “It’s important to model good behavior,” Dr. Ukwu says.

Scenario: Your child’s best friend or a neighboring pal knocks on the door.

Verdict: “I prefer my children play outside, even after they get vaccinated in the future,” she says.

Scenario: You attend an outdoor concert or a sporting event.

Verdict: You’re likely to head for the exits and parking garage at the same time as other fans. Consider wearing a mask and socially distance yourself in lines to buy tickets or food. Bring hand sanitizer to clean your hands before handling food. Remember: You will still need to follow guidance at local businesses, according to the CDC.

“You cannot assume someone without a mask is fully vaccinated,” Dr. Ukwu says.

Scenario: Your children are back in school this fall.

Verdict: Vaccinations may not yet be available to those under 12, and not everyone over 12 will have received the vaccine, Dr. Ukwu says. With masks not being required at all schools, kids may unknowingly spread the virus. Compounding the risks is the nature of kids: They may feel immune or succumb to peer pressure to ditch their face covering.

When in doubt, refer to the CDC’s guidelines on how to proceed once vaccinated and continue safe practices that make you feel comfortable. To learn more, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated.html#vaccinated.

The information in this article is accurate as of June 16, 2021.

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