“Ask for a Friend” is a new series that tackles readers’ complicated vaccine scenarios with advice from medical experts. In the second installment, we explore how you can safely visit your elderly loved ones.
During the pandemic, she has minimized contact with her grandmother because she knows that people in her age group are vulnerable to severe cases of COVID-19.
Now that you and your grandmother are fully vaccinated, you feel more comfortable visiting after more than a year apart. Still, you know there are potential risks of passing COVID-19 to your grandmother, even if you are both vaccinated.
How do you know when it is safe to hug nana again?
Expert Tip: Use Everything in the COVID-19 Prevention Toolkit
Go ahead and give Nana a hug, as long as both of you are fully vaccinated.
“At this point, I feel pretty confident telling people that if they are two fully vaccinated people, they should still be able to hug,” says Dr. Nathan Stall, who specializes in geriatrics at Mount Sinai Hospital.
Being fully vaccinated, both you and your older relatives, is a big step in the right direction, Stall says. Even as the extremely contagious Delta variant takes over the province, Stall says being fully vaccinated is the best thing you can do to keep your grandparents safe while visiting them.
“(The vaccination) is going to reduce the chances of infection about three times. It’s going to dramatically reduce the chances of death or hospitalization, ”Stall said. “They should still feel very reassured that they are vaccinated.”
Still, Stall says older adults are more likely to get serious infections, so it’s important to maintain COVID-19 precautions at work and elsewhere.
“The Delta variant is a different opponent when it comes to the pandemic,” Stall said. “We need to use all the tools in our toolkit to fight.”
In addition to getting vaccinated, that toolkit includes: indoor masking, physical distancing, especially when someone’s vaccination status is unknown, and proper hand hygiene.
“These are the fundamental measures that we have been taking all the time, that are necessary, despite the vaccination status, against the Delta variants,” Stall said.
It is also important to consider other factors such as the number of people you are exposed to, especially if you are seeing people with mixed vaccine states. The National Institute on Aging has online COVID-19 risk calculator that you can use to determine if it is safe to hug your grandmother.
By following all of the COVID-19 safety precautions, Stall says you can greatly mitigate the risk of infecting older family members. It is also important to assess factors that could make older family members more vulnerable, including age and any health conditions they may have.
“I would encourage you to follow your local public health advice, talk to your family doctor, and have these important risk-benefit conversations with your loved ones to come up with something that everyone is comfortable with,” Stall said.
Not sure how safe a vaccine setting is? We want to hear from you. Write us about the scenario that weighs on your mind here.
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