I had my second Pfizer vaccine shot. So, can I hug Bubby and Zayde?

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More than three million Israelis have received at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine and over 1.8 million have gotten two shots. As more people reach maximum immunity, does that mean they can gather together? Can extended families once again visit each other and eat together like during pre-coronavirus days?

“We still recommend using masks and social distancing,” coronavirus commissioner Prof. Nachman Ash said on Monday in response to a question by The Jerusalem Post. “This is the case during a meeting of two people who have both been vaccinated, and especially when it comes to meeting people who are not vaccinated, such as grandchildren with their grandmother or grandfather.”

He said that, “even though we are waiting eagerly to hug and kiss [our grandparents], we still need to socially distance and wear masks in case we could infect them and they could then pass on the infection” to someone who could develop a serious case of the disease.

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There are currently around 450,000 Israelis over the age of 50 who have not yet been vaccinated, Ash said.

There are still many unknowns about the effects of the Pfizer messenger RNA vaccine, including to what extent people who are considered fully protected can still be infected and subsequently spread the disease, health experts have explained.

A person is considered to have maximum immunity after about seven days have passed since receiving their second dose of the vaccine. The second dose of the Pfizer vaccine is administered 21 days after the first, so maximum immunity is reached about one month after starting the vaccination process.

The waiting period between the two doses of the Moderna vaccine is 28 days, with maximum immunity a week later like Pfizer’s.

Additionally, while Pfizer and Moderna have reported that their vaccines are effective against the British and South African variants, there is no guarantee that they will work against all other and future mutations.

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“I keep all the precautions” despite vaccination, Prof. Gabriel Barbash, former Health Ministry director-general, told the Post. “That is because there are many variants. I don’t know who is carrying what and some of the variants are very infectious… I don’t want to be in a position to get anything even after I got vaccinated.”

Finally, “maximum protection” when it comes to the Pfizer vaccine is actually 95%. That means that one out of every 20 vaccinated people may come down with the disease, even though it is unlikely to be a severe case.

Experts believe that as more Israelis are fully vaccinated, it will be realistic to relax some of the cautious behavior people are required to maintain now.

But when will that be?

The answer, said Barbash: “We don’t know.”

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