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I’m Vaccinated! Now What?

I’m Vaccinated! Now What?
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Published on March 9, 2021

What Comes After Being Vaccinated?

When I was a kid, I was lucky enough to attend summer camp. Unfortunately, I was often scheduled for swim instruction first thing in the morning. Even in warm weather, the lake water was COLD! We were encouraged to take the plunge — to get wet quickly. I always dipped my toes into the water first to check the temperature.

My approach to being vaccinated for COVID-19 has not been much different. I dove in headfirst and was lucky to receive my two vaccines in February. Naturally, I began to think about life after the pandemic and what I might be able to do 2-3 weeks after the second shot.

The answer is… not much. Not yet.

I am 71 years old, immune-compromised from living with CLL for nearly 15 years and underwent surgery/radiation in 2018 for a sarcoma. There aren’t reliable antibody tests yet to determine how much I am protected from the virus — we all are waiting for accurate and inexpensive home-testing kits. In the meantime, I’ve begun to question what might realistically change for me after being vaccinated.

I reached out to our family physician to let her know that I had received my vaccines and to ask what I can do now. Her initial response was disappointing: “Be careful out there!” She reminded me that after receiving vaccines, there should be no change in official behavior. “Same as we’ve been doing,” she said. “That means wearing masks, social distancing, washing hands… wait for warmer weather to see people outside again… we need to see what happens with the variants.”

The variants. There isn’t enough information about the impact of mutated viruses from the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil. Experts say they are potentially more deadly, and they don’t have enough data to determine if those two precious shots will protect us from infection, serious illness or worse. The longer it takes to vaccinate everyone, the better the chance these new, wily variants will pop up.

One of my motivations (among many) for getting the shots quickly is to hug our grandchildren. I have yet to hold our youngest, who turns one in mid-March. My son is a physician. When I asked about a birthday celebration for the baby, he replied, “I’m uncomfortable.” His wife hasn’t been vaccinated. The kids (our older grandson is 21/2) haven’t been vaccinated. The plan? We’ll hope for decent weather, celebrate outdoors with a heater, masks and social distancing. Sound familiar?

And yet, I remain hopeful. It’s getting warmer. We’ll be able to meet with vaccinated friends outside at restaurants. My doc said — unofficially* — that it probably will be okay to get together inside with another vaccinated couple. I go to the grocery store and get my hair cut, double-masked, of course. Travel? Not yet, and there aren’t many places to go. Movies? Theatre? I’m not ready to sit inside with strangers for long periods of time.

So, I am taking baby steps. Dipping in my toe to check the temperature. And I am looking forward, eventually, to take the plunge back into a pre-COVID life.

~Carol Preston

*On March 8, 2021, the CDC updated the public health recommendations to allow vaccinated people to gather indoors. More information on what the CDC has updated is available on their website.

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