It’s officially fall and the countdown to the holiday season has begun. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many families are wondering what the holidays will look like in 2021. From big community events to indoor family gatherings, it’s not too early to think about how you will celebrate. In fact, in many ways planning ahead will help ensure you’re able to celebrate the holidays safely with the ones you love most.
Step 1: Start conversations with family now
When it comes to COVID-19 vaccines, personal preferences vary greatly, even among close family members. If you haven’t already, now is the time to gauge the comfort level of your family members regarding gathering for the holidays, especially if your plan involves coming together with people who are not vaccinated.
“If you plan to gather with older family members or people who are at increased risk for serious complications related to COVID-19, it’s a wise idea to ask them if they are comfortable being around people that are not vaccinated yet, including children under the age of 12 that aren’t able to receive a vaccine at this time,” said Archbold family medicine physician Stephen Rubendall Jr, MD. “When we gather in close areas, there is great potential for spreading germs, even though no one would choose to do so intentionally. We just need to be mindful of everyone’s comfort level and take every precaution possible to keep our family members safe this holiday season.”
Step 2: Be sure you are fully vaccinated
If you are attending an in-person holiday celebration, the best way to protect yourself and others is to ensure you are fully vaccinated.
To be fully vaccinated, you will need to be ≥14 days post completion of the primary series of an FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine. That means, in order to be fully vaccinated in time for your family’s Thanksgiving and December holiday celebrations, you should be sure your second dose is scheduled no later than 14 days before your event, which means your first dose would need to be scheduled five to six weeks (depending on the vaccine manufacturer) before your family gathering.
According to the CDC, people are considered fully vaccinated:
- two weeks after their second shot in a two-dose series, like the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, or
- two weeks after a single-shot vaccine, like Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine
According to the CDC, you are not fully vaccinated if:
- it has been less than two weeks since your one-dose shot
- it has been less than two weeks since your second shot of a two-dose vaccine
- you still need to get your second dose of a two-dose vaccine
“For specific groups of people, booster shots are now available and could help provide an added layer of protection,” said Dr. Rubendall. “However, everyone is still considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, or 2 weeks after the single-dose Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.”
Step 3: Stay abreast of the situation
Even if you are making plans for holiday gatherings now, remember things can change drastically over the next couple of months. If you are traveling this holiday season, be sure to keep an eye on the rate of positive cases in the area you plan to visit.
“If the number of cases spikes around the date of your departure, you may want to reschedule your trip,” said Dr. Rubendall. “It’s also important to check in with friends and family in the days leading up to your gathering, so you can have peace of mind knowing everyone is feeling well, which will set the tone for a safe holiday celebration.”