The CDC on 3/8/21 issued its interim public health recommendations for fully vaccinated people. These were updated most recently on 4/27/21 suggesting what was likely safe for those vaccinated to do outdoors. Please know that these are just recommendations and not set in stone but only intended to provide reasonable guidelines. Also, these recommendations are very likely to change in quick order given the pace of the science and the vaccination rollout in the USA. In total the latest recommendations are welcome news and a positive step back to a normal pre-pandemic world, but before we get too celebratory, CLL Society has a few comments and reminders:
- CDC’s recommendations apply to the immunocompetent who have been fully vaccinated and that does not include those of us with CLL.
- That also means that the recommendations do not apply when someone who has a normal immune system who has been vaccinated gets together with someone with CLL, whether the CLL patient has been vaccinated at not. Masks and social distancing would still be recommended. The reason for this is that even if vaccinated, it is still not known if that individual can have the virus and still spread the virus to another person.
- Importantly, these recommendations are based on solid, still accruing science, but we will not have reassuring data about just how safe we are until we have more experience with this current set of recommendations.
- Unfortunately, early data in CLL patients suggest that our antibody production in response to SARS-CoV-2 vaccines is suboptimal. While this does not directly translate into the vaccines not working for us, it is not encouraging news.
- The recommendations are “interim” and will almost certainly be updated as more data are gathered. Indeed, we would not be surprised to see monthly CDC updates.
These CDC recommendations are positive indications of a return to a more normal life post pandemic for our family and friends.
But they do not kick the door wide open for CLL patients yet to hug, share meals and visit at close quarters.
For us, even when vaccinated, we still need to keep the three tried and true mandates for COVID safety: maintain social distancing, wash hands and wear a face mask.
What to look for in the coming weeks or months: What our doctors will need to tell us is when it is okay to be close and social in a similar way to those with a normal immune system. This may not come about until there is some combination of evidence that vaccines are protective for us, that there is herd immunity, stronger data that the vaccines prevent transmission, and that there are reliable therapeutics to prevent or control the disease if one of us is infected. Take heart that progress is moving fast on all of these fronts.
Do not despair. There is light at the end of the tunnel and it’s getting brighter.
Here are the official guidelines: Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People.
Here is a link to a simple explanation that we wrote that can be used to help family and friends better understand our continued reticence to let down our masks.
Stay strong. We are all in this together.
Brian Koffman MDCM (retired) MS Ed
Co-Founder, Executive VP and Chief Medical Officer
CLL Society, Inc.
Neil Kay, MD
Mayo Clinic, Rochester MN