IDAHO — Last week, the CDC issued revised guidelines for fully vaccinated Americans. Those new guidelines include allowing people immunized against the coronavirus to go without a mask while indoors and outdoors with some exceptions.
As with any pandemic-era rule change, you might wonder what implementing those guidelines will mean for your daily life.
Regence Executive Medical Director Dr. Amy Khan says with COVID-19 case numbers dropping and more people getting vaccinated, it's not a surprise to see new guidelines. Still, that doesn't mean we should do away with COVID precautions completely.
"The good news is if it's been at least two weeks since you've been vaccinated, you can largely resume your normal activities, and I think that's important," Dr. Khan explains. "People do need to understand there is, definitely for those who are not immunized or otherwise naturally protected against this virus, there's definitely a chance for person-to-person transmission."
Dr. Khan says the guidance is clear for unvaccinated groups: stay away from crowds whether you're indoors or outdoors. If you are vaccinated and heading to a crowded place, she says it's still a good idea to mask up.
"The places you definitely still want to mask up include healthcare settings, if you're using public transportation, correctional settings. Take into account the setting and those who might be vulnerable as well as whatever the establishment requirements might be."
The latest numbers from the state's COVID-19 vaccination dashboard show 35% of people under 65 have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Unfortunately, as Idaho News 6 reported this week, there are fears Idaho and the U.S. as a whole will not reach herd immunity.
"Failing to achieve herd immunity means that those who are still vulnerable may experience person-to-person transmission," says Dr. Khan. "It means that those are individuals that could be, due to maybe underlying health conditions or older age, more likely to be hospitalized with intensive care potentially or even die."
Dr. Khan adds that not getting a vaccine now and not helping to reach herd immunity also opens the door for COVID variants to become active and spread.
"If you've not been immunized, and even if you've had an actual infection last year, you would have waning immunity. This allows the virus to continue to spread and potentially mutate to develop a more transmissible variant and one that could potentially evade our vaccinations."
Just last week, the FDA granted emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine to be used in children as young as 12 years old.
"What that really means now is that, for not only our teachers but for our students, that we're likely to get back to school as normal this fall," says Dr. Khan.
When it comes to combating vaccine hesitancy in the community, Dr. Khan says it starts by arming yourself with knowledge.
"Share the facts. Tell people about how they can protect themselves and others. This is a safe vaccine. It was not only shown to be so in the clinical trials, but now with nearly 158 million Americans who've received at least one vaccine, we're monitoring safety and we're finding very good results."
While there are flu-like side effects being reported post-vaccination, Dr. Khan says it's important to remember these side effects are very short-lived. It's also good to remind others the COVID-19 vaccine is free, and you can receive one without health insurance.
"They're very effective, over 95% effective in preventing infections, serious infections, and preventing person-to-person transmission and boosting immunity for those who may have gotten it in the past."
If you have lingering questions about COVID-19 or the COVID vaccine, Dr. Khan says there are several resources you can check out for answers.
"First off, always can call your doctor. Talk to your pharmacist. Remember, pharmacists are providing the vaccines. You can also go and contact your local health district."
For more answers, click here.