Can You Invite Mom Over for Mother's Day If She's Been Vaccinated?
After a year of limited family gatherings, social distancing, and virtual hugs, Mother's Day feels like a perfect reason to get your whole family together—especially if your mom has received a COVID-19 vaccine. But other factors—like whether she's had one shot or two, how long it's been since her vaccine, and the vaccination status of everyone else at your gathering—indicate the safety precautions you should take. "The only safe gathering is the one where everyone has been vaccinated," says Yale School of Public Health Dean Sten H. Vermund, MD, PhD., "and it's two weeks post-second Moderna or Pfizer, or it's four weeks post-first Johnson & Johnson. Given vaccine supply limitations and lack of product for children, this is tough to operationalize." Ahead, Dr. Vermund explains how to navigate this holiday safely.
Has Mom's vaccine had time to work?
Experts recommend giving the immune system two weeks to "mount an optimal response" to the second dose of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, and four weeks to respond to the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine. "We think one dose of Moderna and Pfizer works for some people, and that a second dose would not be needed in them, but we do not know who they are without immunological testing," says Dr. Vermund, "so the two doses are recommended highly. If a visitor has just had the one dose, a visit should involve all the precautions of masks, physical distancing, hand hygiene, only small groups, and good ventilation." But if Mom—or anyone else—has received the complete vaccine and waited for it to take effect, they can visit without concern. "We recommend that the fully immunized person who is beyond the two-to-four week post-vaccine period not worry at all about getting the novel coronavirus—that's how good the vaccine is," shares Dr. Vermund.
Who else is attending the party?
But this doesn't mean you can host a full-blown celebration. Unless everyone on your guest list has secured the full dose of a vaccine, it's important to maintain safety precautions to protect the rest of your family. "If a family is in a pod, meaning that they live together and are not taking protective precautions, then there is little concern, since the visiting fully-immunized Mom—and anyone else with her who is fully immunized—will not get COVID-19," notes Dr. Vermund. "However, if we are mixing families, then the risk can rise, and taking all precautions makes sense."
This means setting up as much of your event as you can on your lawn or patio, limiting the time you spend together, and socially distancing. "Outdoors is by far the best; there is tremendous dilutional effort in the open air," says Dr. Vermund. "Limiting the size and length of the reunion and using physical distancing, masks, and hand hygiene would also be highly advisable in the face of unvaccinated attendees." Having the kids or grandkids join the party also increases the need for extra safety measures. "Kids are not vaccinated and a super-spreader event is easy to envision with a party atmosphere," adds Dr. Vermund. "Such a visit should involve all the precautions of masks, physical distancing, hand hygiene, only small groups, and good ventilation." Still, despite the safety measures, having your vaccinated mom over comes with one huge benefit for the guest of honor, says Dr. Vermund: "She can be hugged again!"