DePaul University Newsline > Sections > Ask an Expert > Life after the vaccine: Public health researcher gives outlook, tips

Life after the vaccine: Public health researcher gives outlook, tips

Vaccination Station Signs
As vaccinations ramp up, many are wondering how to gather with friends and family safely. Public health expert Daniel Schober shares tips. (DePaul University/Randall Spriggs)
As more Americans receive their COVID-19 vaccines, many are wondering how things might change this spring and summer. Assistant professor Daniel Schober teaches in DePaul’s Public Health program. Schober’s research focuses on health disparities and the social determinants of health — how factors in society and our environment determine our well-being. In this Q&A, Schober offers insight into how public health guidance may evolve in the coming months.

Daniel Schober
Daniel Schober is a clinical assistant professor in the Master of Public Health program at DePaul University. (DePaul University/Daniel Schober)
Many people are looking forward to the COVID-19 vaccine freeing up their lives. As a public health researcher, can you share some thoughts on what people can look forward to doing, while still staying safe, after they are vaccinated?

Since early January, COVID-19 cases have declined — part of this is due to vaccinations. Approximately 9% of the population has been vaccinated, and state and local municipalities are increasing their administration of daily vaccinations.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released guidelines for people who have been fully vaccinated for at least two weeks. According to the guidelines, these individuals can visit small groups of other fully vaccinated people, indoors, without wearing a mask or maintaining physical distancing. Fully vaccinated people do not need to test or quarantine if they are asymptomatic after being exposed to someone with COVID-19.

If vaccinated people are visiting unvaccinated people, they must be from a single household and a low risk group. These CDC guidelines are nuanced and specific situations involving interactions between vaccinated and unvaccinated people need to be considered with care —the guidance can be reviewed on CDC’s website.

The CDC recommends fully vaccinated people avoid any unnecessary travel. Some health experts have criticized this guideline as too restrictive, but as the CDC weighed the risks and benefits to all people, they have opted to recommend continued travel restrictions.

What measures do you think will remain in place? How can those coexist with getting back to pre-pandemic activities of work and play?

As COVID-19 vaccinations increase and the warmer weather arrives, we will most likely see cases continue to decline. As businesses and schools reopen, we will have to coexist with restrictions: masking, maintaining physical distance and avoiding large gatherings. These restrictions will remain in place until the majority of the population is vaccinated. The exact vaccination rate we need for herd immunity is unknown, but it is believed to be between 70-90%.

People will likely continue to work from home — at least to an extent — and travel will be limited. We also will have to address the social, economic and health inequities that COVID-19 exposed, including the fact communities of color experienced more COVID-19 cases, deaths and economic harms than white communities. The most recent COVID-19 stimulus bill is a good start to addressing some of these inequities.

We are hearing some populations are struggling to access the vaccine. How can we as a community, and as individuals, help alleviate this issue?

The first thing we must do as a DePaul community is commit to getting the vaccine. Everyone has a responsibility to get vaccinated as soon as it is available to them. Getting the vaccine protects the entire community — especially those who may struggle to access the vaccine.

Second, we must be patient and stay up-to-date on how to get the vaccine when we are eligible to do so. We also must ensure priority populations have access to this information and to the resources they need to get the vaccine. Through teaching, scholarship and service, DePaul can help vulnerable communities overcome barriers to getting the vaccine including technological and logistical barriers.

Many groups in our society have faced discrimination throughout the pandemic. Our university community can continue to lead a positive, factual discourse about the vaccination — at DePaul, throughout Chicago and beyond.

The DePaul community — both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals — need to continue to wear masks, maintain physical distance and avoid large gatherings to best protect each other. Without these public health measures, we risk spreading COVID-19 and contributing to a potential outbreak. It also is important to acknowledge there are still things we do not know about COVID-19, and we must be willing to adapt as additional guidance emerges.

Read more from experts: Elizabeth Aquino on why nurses trust the COVID-19 vaccine