Over the next few months, as Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas approaches, family and friends are likely to come together as they haven’t since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. is almost two years old.
But with so many guest lists including children under the age of 12 who haven’t been able to get vaccinated, how much should those who are likely to be infected worry?
Officials say it is safe to participate in many holiday activities if everyone is vaccinated. But it is certainly possible that people who have been vaccinated will get infected and then pass the virus on to someone else.
“I don’t think anyone should be 100% sure that if they are fully vaccinated and become infected with the virus – even if they are asymptomatic – they are not able to spread or transmit.” , said Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County director of public health.
But she and other experts say the risk of fully vaccinated people transmitting the virus is lower than among the unvaccinated. And that makes a big difference during the holidays.
“The risk of transmission is linked to two variables: your chance of having COVID and your chance to pass if you have it, ”wrote Dr. Robert Wachter, chair of the UC San Francisco Department of Medicine, in an email. “Vaccines greatly reduce the likelihood of transmission from any individual due to these two factors. ”
Wachter said he would suggest taking extra care when examining the presence of a child with an underlying disease or an elderly person with a weakened immune system.
It is difficult to induce immunity to COVID-19 in people with weakened immune systems, according to Dr Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla.
The risk of a fully vaccinated person contracting a breakthrough infection can depend in large part on the extent of transmission of the virus in a given community. Places that strictly require proof of vaccination to do certain things, such as entering a bar or restaurant, will generally have lower transmission rates in these places.
“It’s as safe as you can make it,” said Dr. George Rutherford, epidemiologist and infectious disease expert at UC San Francisco.
One way to further reduce the risk at a family reunion like Thanksgiving is to have guests take a quick test just before. These tests can be purchased at drugstores and provide results within 15 minutes, although they can sometimes be difficult to find.
Unlike tests that must be analyzed in the lab and usually take at least a day to get results, rapid tests offer near instant answers to whether you are infectious with the coronavirus, according to Dr. Michael Mina, an epidemiologist at Harvard TH School. Chan Public Health.
Testing done several days before attending an event may offer information that is too outdated to be useful.
“It’s a bit like going through a security [screening] at the airport, then be allowed to go home for three days, repack your bags, then when you get back you don’t need to go through security anymore, ”said Mina, who spoke at the event. ‘a UC San Francisco forum hosted by Wachter.
While there is always a small chance of a false positive with a rapid test, those who get this result can at least avoid the others while they seek further confirmation.
Across California, unvaccinated people are seven times more likely to test positive for the COVID-19 virus than those vaccinated, according to state health figures.
And in LA County, the nation’s most populous, only 1% of fully vaccinated residents subsequently tested positive. Much less, 0.036%, became so ill that they were eventually hospitalized.
Another UC San Francisco infectious disease expert, Dr Monica Gandhi, also pointed out that symptomatic people who are fully vaccinated are more likely to transmit the virus than people vaccinated without symptoms.
A study from Singapore suggests that the amount of virus in the nose of an infected vaccinated person “drops very quickly” compared to people who are not vaccinated, Gandhi said. This means that a vaccinated person with a breakthrough case could be infectious for a shorter period.
Another study cited by Gandhi, in the Netherlands, found that vaccinated people were significantly less likely to have an infectious virus in their nose compared to unvaccinated people. Coronaviruses removed from the noses of vaccinated people were essentially so hampered by the immune system that they couldn’t be grown in the lab, meaning they wouldn’t be considered infectious.
Gandhi said she is not particularly concerned that fully vaccinated people develop a breakthrough infection and transmit the virus to young children while remaining asymptomatic. Gandhi said she felt safe taking her parents, who are in their 80s, in indoor restaurants in San Francisco, even though she has an 11-year-old at home who is too young to be vaccinated.
Another factor that reassured Gandhi: the sanitary order of San Francisco forcing anyone aged 12 and over to be vaccinated for dinner in covered restaurants.
“A whole bunch of feeling good people in a room who are all vaccinated shouldn’t spread to each other,” Gandhi said.
But because symptomatic vaccinated people can transmit the coronavirus, Gandhi said she would suggest her parents start wearing masks at home if they start to develop cold symptoms.
Most officials and experts agree that the most important thing parents can do to protect children too young to be vaccinated is to get the vaccine themselves. Hospitals in Orange County, for example, have generally reported that children hospitalized with COVID-19 have family members who are not vaccinated.