My parents, grandparents and relatives have already been vaccinated and I wonder if it is safe to visit them: this is what we know
889,683 people. Those are the people that, to date, have already received the complete schedule of the coronavirus vaccine. In other words, in a few weeks, we will have more than a million people vaccinated in the country. Many of them, seniors who have been confined to nursing homes for months with no more contact with their loved ones than videoconferences, calls and visits handled with a dropper. Loneliness, it goes without saying, has been one of the clearest effects of SARS-CoV-2.
Therefore, as vaccinations progress and the third wave of the pandemic begins to subside, many people begin to wonder if it is time to visit your parents, grandparents and relatives, and it is safe to do so once they are vaccinated and have developed immunity. It is a reasonable question and, precisely because of that, it is difficult to answer in a general way. We review what we know about immunity, the new variants and the rest of the factors that go into a decision like this.
What exactly does it mean to “be immune”?
Immunity holds: Perhaps this is the first thing we have to remember. When we speak of “immunity” or “being immunized”, we talk about the process by which the immune system is able to identify a specific pathogen and neutralize it before it can cause disease. Sometimes that immunity is more “complete” and blocks the pathogen quickly; others, it only partially protects and the disease can develop more tenuous and less serious; and finally, there are times when immunity is absent or almost non-existent.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the question of immunity was one of the central concerns of all. The most obvious reason is that, within the great family of coronaviruses, we have some that generate immunity for more than 15 years and others that leave practically no trace on the immune memory. No one was very clear about what would be the case of SARS-CoV-2 and, from the outset, it meant that even after having overcome the disease we could not be safe.
Although reinfections were a puzzle for months, we now know that (with known variants) they only occur in 1% of cases, and overall, the immune mechanisms seem pretty robust. This is good news: generally speaking, even if we count the decay of antibodies that we find in a large percentage of the population, immunity withstands the ravages of the virus.
Vaccines are very effective: This good news also extends to vaccines. Throughout these weeks we have published various analyzes of all vaccines And the constant is the high levels of effectiveness of those already on the market. Once the regimen is complete and immunity has developed, mild symptoms may appear, but serious illnesses (and deaths) are extremely rare. In countries with the highest vaccination rates the consequences of this they are already beginning to show.
This does not mean that serious cases cannot occur in the future. Even more so, as some researchers and health authorities believe, there are variants of the virus that are capable of circumventing the protection of some vaccines. As long as we do not achieve group immunity (and the appearance of variants and strains, in itself, puts at risk that we can achieve it quickly) the safety of vaccines is something that will have to be constantly reviewed. In fact, do not rule out that you have to modify them on the fly.
Be immune and continue to spread: However, the good news about immunity leave a question in the inkwell: What about that 1% that, having passed the disease, can be a carrier of it and is capable of infecting others? Could they be vectors of contagion that make it impossible to control the pandemic? The short answer is that, in the medium to long term, the figure is so low that the possible risk will be controlled by the effects of herd immunity.
The long answer is that the risk posed by this 1% of recovered susceptible to re-infection changes depending on the epidemiological situation of the society. Indeed, you can be immunized, continue to spread and cause an outbreak without realizing it. Even more so at a time like the present when group immunity is still a distant goal on the horizon.
Therefore social distancing measures have not been relaxed (the mask, the ventilation and the two meters of distance): these restrictions are what allow, in fact, that those under 55 who have passed the covid can wait six months to be vaccinated without posing a public health risk.
And the vaccinated? If you have noticed I have been very careful to limit that “1%” to those infected who are susceptible to reinfection. There is only one reason for this: that we do not know what happens to the vaccinated. Till the date, despite what has been published in recent weeks, no pharmaceutical laboratory has examined in detail the extent to which those vaccinated are capable of transmitting (asymptomatically) the disease to third parties.
This is one of the great questions still pending. A matter in which not even “national experiments” like Israel (being in full confinement) they can shed too much light. However, it is a matter of time before we have data on the matter because a good part of the changes in public policies that will be implemented in the coming months depends on this.
So can I visit my parents (already vaccinated)?
The issue, as we see, is complex. And it is subject to as many variables as situations. Above all, because it is not only necessary to take into account what is related to the effectiveness of the vaccine, the dangerousness of the new variants (whether or not they are in the country) and even the risk of contagion for oneself: you have to take into account the effects of loneliness and isolation in the Physical Health, psychological and emotional, the characteristics of the place where they live or the distance that separates us.
In this sense and as it improves the terrible epidemiological state of the country, It is possible that we live in one of the safest moments for family reunions if they are carried out with the appropriate security measures. The effectiveness of the vaccines against the variants that are currently circulating in the country is high and, this is important, we do not know how long this will be the case. Wait for group immunity it is complicated because that scenario is not close. We already knew that it was very difficult to reach her this year, But is that the emergence of new vaccine-resistant varaintes they can delay the goal much longer than expected.
That yes, as I say, this is a general assessment that must be confronted with the peculiarities of each case. It is no secret that we have repeatedly upheld the principle of prudence and the need to make worst-case decisions always in mind. In this case too: for example, it does not make sense to do without all the security measures that we know well. However, prudence is not a synonym for fatalism. Almost the opposite, In order to make reasonable decisions, we must examine all strengths and weaknesses. Today’s are what they are.
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