Here's what the experts have to say on the topic.

By Nashia Baker
February 12, 2021
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As COVID-19 vaccines continue to be distributed nationwide, grandparents everywhere have one pressing question that's top of mind: When can they see their grandkids again? Today Show host Savannah Guthrie posed this very question to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as people over the age of 65 in nearly every state are now eligible to receive their vaccinations. "Ultimately, yes," Dr. Fauci said in response to whether or not grandparents are able to gather with their families again if they have been vaccinated and are healthy. However, if only one senior in the family is vaccinated and his or her spouse is not, the infection risk is still quite high. "Then you gotta be careful," Dr. Fauci explained. "Because grandma could still get virus in her nasopharynx, even though the vaccine is preventing her from getting physically ill. She still could have virus in her nasopharynx... Until we have the overwhelming majority of people vaccinated, and the level of virus is very low. When you're vaccinated, it would be prudent to wear a mask."

grandparent with grandchild in garden
Credit: Halfpoint Images / Getty Images

Other experts added that the potential transmission of COVID-19 is still high, as children likely won't be able to get vaccinated until ongoing trials are complete. "Those grandkids, even though they'd be less likely to get sick, they could be carrying the virus," said Dr. Scott Weisenberg, an infectious disease specialist at NYU Langone. "They're certainly not going to be vaccinated for quite a while. We don't even have the trials started for young kids. So even though grandparents (who are fully vaccinated) may be 95 percent less likely to get sick and certainly less likely to end up critically ill, there's still going to be that chance, (especially) when the virus is spreading in the community."

Remaining cautious during this time is still the best course of action. Experts emphasize that it is important to continue practicing government-regulated safety measures (including wearing a mask, social distancing, only having small gatherings, and spending time with others only in well-ventilated spaces) for at least the next year—even if your loved ones are receiving vaccinations. "I think we will gradually be able to begin loosening some restrictions, but... try to keep the ones that are probably the most important still in place," said Dr. Anne Liu, clinical associate professor of infectious diseases at Stanford Health Care. "The vaccine reduces the chances of getting a virus, but the risk is not entirely limited."

Extra discretion is still necessary because some people may be asymptomatic, too. "It's gotten to the point where we know that about half the people with the virus are showing symptoms," Dr. David Buchholz, the senior founding medical director for primary care at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center, said. "That means there are 10 to 14 days where someone can potentially be spreading the virus after getting infected, so all of those things we're doing like taking people's temperatures and doing screenings can really miss 50 percent of the people who have actually contracted the virus."

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