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After Covid-19 vaccine, baby boomers grapple with what activities to resume
4 min read.Updated: 16 Feb 2021, 12:37 AM ISTMelanie Grayce West, The Wall Street Journal
Some of the first Americans to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19, older people still struggle to know what activities are safe
The day Lisa Diaz got her second shot of the Covid-19 vaccine, she rebooked a long-delayed trip to Ireland for the fall.
The 69-year-old retired government official, who spends part of the year in Deerfield Beach, Fla., said her overall anxieties about contracting Covid-19 have been eased. But when a friend recently invited her to a happy hour at a place where people don’t really social distance and not everyone wears a mask, her answer was swift.
“I said, ‘Pick a different place,’" recalled Ms. Diaz. “I won’t go into a really crowded place where people are unmasked. I like the odds in my favor."
Across the country, more baby boomers and older Americans are facing a whole new set of choices after nearly a year of vigilance and restrictions on daily life as they become some of the first in the country to be fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.
Like Ms. Diaz, some have said travel—almost anywhere—is on the horizon. But decisions about other activities and social engagements remain as convoluted as before for many.
In more than half of U.S. states, people aged 65 and up are eligible to be vaccinated. And while the pathway to find a vaccine or sign-up for one has been beset with confusion, delays and frustrations for many older people, 3.75 million Americans aged 65 and older received their first dose during the first month of vaccinations—roughly 29% of all those vaccinated during that period, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A new federal program that began Thursday also will speed vaccines to pharmacies and grocery stores, which in some states already have been responsible for vaccinating older populations.
Public-health officials have stressed that even if a person has received both doses of the vaccine, basic health guidance still applies. Vaccinated people should wear facial coverings, physically distance, avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, maintain good hand hygiene and stay home if sick.
Dr. Jan Busby-Whitehead, director of the Center for Aging and Health at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, said she and colleagues are still urging caution because most of the U.S. population isn’t vaccinated, new, more transmissible variants are now circulating and the two vaccines in the U.S. aren’t 100% effective. Late-stage trials showed Pfizer’s vaccine has 95% effectiveness, while Moderna’s has 94.1%.
“First the focus was ‘Let’s all get the vaccine.’ And now, it’s, ‘Now what?’" said Dr. Busby-Whitehead. “There is some vagueness here."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said there isn’t enough information currently available about the protection that Covid-19 vaccines provide in real-world situations to change its guidance on masks and social distancing.
Florence Blackwell, a floral designer in Pueblo, Colo., got her second Covid-19 vaccine last week. In 2019, the 74-year-old visited eight different places, and Mexico, Europe and even Brooklyn are on her travel agenda for 2021.
But Ms. Blackwell said she is still concerned about her safety amid the pandemic. She plans to continue to maintain her distance, wash her hands and wear a mask during work. A recent visit to a Mexican restaurant with family became a quick meal when the restaurant started to fill.
“It’s a terribly confusing time," Ms. Blackwell said. “Should I be afraid to be with people I’m not usually around?"
Not much will change for 74-year-old Manhattan resident Lilliam Barrios-Paoli after she received her second dose of vaccine this past weekend.
Riding the subway, leisure travel, going to restaurants and other social activities are off the table until “there’s some sort of herd immunity," said Dr. Barrios-Paoli, a senior adviser to the president of New York City’s Hunter College and a former deputy mayor for New York City.
“I’m old enough to remember polio. People were very afraid of doing a lot of things that probably wouldn’t transmit polio. But it was so scary," said Dr. Barrios-Paoli. “I think it’s kind of the same feeling. I’m not running that risk."
Margaret Jackson’s recent second shot of the Pfizer vaccine has expanded her to-do list, including volunteering at a pharmacy in Harlem to help with vaccination efforts. “It’s important that I, as a Black person, give to the Black population," the retired nurse said.
The one thing causing her a bit of pause is a return to in-person church services, where she is a lecturer. “I’m a little bit worried to go to church because it’s a closed building," Ms. Jackson said. “I’m afraid of closed buildings."
For Martin Preston, a 68-year-old retiree who had Covid-19 in the spring when the virus swept through New York City, residual anxiety is a mostly matter of mental outlook.
“There were days for months I was dragging. There were days I was a little depressed," Mr. Preston said. “I’m going to live my life and move on." He plans to head to Aruba after getting his final vaccine shot.
This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.